President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom | AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool

NEW YORK (AP) — In a dramatic turn of events, former President Donald Trump defied court norms by delivering an impromptu speech on the final day of his New York civil fraud trial. Barred from a formal closing argument, Trump seized the opportunity to address the court, launching a six-minute diatribe before being cut off by the judge.

Trump, who faces allegations of habitually exaggerating his wealth on financial statements, accused those prosecuting him of persecution. Judge Arthur Engoron allowed Trump to speak briefly before calling for a lunch break. The former president’s remarks, not televised, marked a tumultuous conclusion to a trial where he is accused of deceiving a bank and insurance companies.

Engoron aims to deliver a verdict by January 31, as he navigates the case without a jury due to state law restrictions. New York Attorney General Letitia James initiated the lawsuit in 2022, seeking $370 million in penalties and a ban on Trump conducting business in New York.

Adding to the tension, authorities responded to a bomb threat at the judge’s house, though it did not delay court proceedings. Trump, a prominent Republican presidential contender, has consistently criticized Engoron, accusing him of bias.

The court drama unfolded just days before the commencement of the presidential primary season with Iowa caucuses on Monday. Trump’s attempt to deliver his closing remarks faced rejection earlier, with the judge insisting on adherence to specific guidelines.

Trump’s legal team delivered traditional closing arguments before Trump himself sought to speak, disregarding the judge’s rules. Claiming to be a victim of fraud, Trump accused officials of trying to prevent his potential political success.

Despite personal attacks on the judge, James remained focused on the case’s legal aspects. Outside the court, she stated, “This case has never been about politics or personal vendetta. This case is about the facts and the law. And Mr. Donald Trump violated the law.”

The trial, which began on October 2, involves allegations of conspiracy, insurance fraud, and falsifying business records. Trump’s company and his sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., are also defendants. The judge indicated last month that he might find Trump liable on some claims of fraud.

This unprecedented trial unfolds as Trump faces multiple legal battles, including criminal charges related to his alleged plot to overturn the 2020 election. The former president has maintained his innocence in all cases.

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