Judge in Trump's criminal case has received dozens of threats, police sources say

The former president himself has repeatedly lashed out at Judge Juan Merchan.

April 6, 2023, 12:30 PM

The judge overseeing the criminal case against former President Donald Trump has received dozens of threats in recent days, police sources told ABC News.

Trump himself has repeatedly lashed out at New York Supreme Court Judge Juan Merchan both before and after his court appearance, calling Merchan and Merchan's family "Trump hating" in a speech hours after he was arraigned on Tuesday. Merchan previously oversaw the tax fraud trial of the Trump Organization that ended in a conviction.

Most of the threats against Merchan are in the form of harassing calls and emailed death threats, the sources said.

"Over the past weeks we have continued to evaluate and assess security concerns and potential threats and have maintained an increased security presence in and around courthouses and throughout the judiciary and will adjust protocols as necessary,” a spokesman for the Office of Court Administration told ABC News.

At Trump's arraignment in Manhattan on Tuesday -- on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to which he pleaded not guilty -- prosecutors voiced alarm at his "recent public statements threatening our city, our justice system, our courts and our office."

Assistant District Attorney Christopher Conroy said then that Trump's posts on social media and elsewhere, including one warning of "potential death and destruction" and those directed at the grand jury, at prosecutors and others were why a protective order was needed to limit his public comments, particularly around what he may learn about the prosecution's case through discovery.

PHOTO: Judge Juan Merchan at his office in New York County Criminal Court on Oct. 21, 2022.
Judge Juan Merchan at his office in New York County Criminal Court on Oct. 21, 2022.
Ahmed Gaber/The New York Times, FILE

Conroy said prosecutors and Trump's attorneys were negotiating on the terms of such a protective order, but he suggested that Trump's rhetoric could motivate prosecutors to seek further restrictions on what he could say about the case.

In response, Trump attorney Todd Blanche told the judge that it "is true that President Trump has responded and responded forcefully. It is true that as part of that response, he's absolutely frustrated, upset and believes that there is a grave injustice happening."

Blanche said Trump had "free speech rights to talk about his view of what is happening."

"You can, I think, discuss words that are used, but every one of these posts are not threats, they are not harassment -- and rhetoric that maybe the [prosecutors] don't like, sure," Blanche said.

Merchan disagreed with some Blanche's argument, however: "I don't share your view that certain language and certain rhetoric is justified by frustration."

The judge encouraged both the prosecution and the defense, including Trump, to "please refrain from making comments or engaging in conduct that has the potential to incite violence, create civil unrest or jeopardize the safety or wellbeing of any individuals" -- and to "not engage in words or conduct which jeopardizes the rule of law."

"This is a request I'm making. I'm not making it an order," Merchan said at the arraignment. "But now that I have made the request, if I were to be handed something like this again in the future, I have to take a closer look at it."

Merchan has previously donated to Democratic politicians, campaign records show: He gave $35 to Democrats in 2020, including $15 to now-President Joe Biden's campaign.

He also gave $10 each to pro-Democratic groups, according to the records. All three of those donations were made through the Democratic small-dollar fundraising platform ActBlue.

ABC News' Soo Rin Kim contributed to this report.

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