(Bloomberg) – Former President Donald Trump’s deposition in an investor fraud class action suit over his promotion of a malfunctioning desktop video phone has been delayed by Hurricane Ian ravaging much of from Florida.
The attorney for the investors requested a postponement, saying the Category 4 hurricane that hit Florida’s west coast on Wednesday made Trump’s questioning under oath unsafe at his Mar-a-Lago estate. Trump objected to the delay.
The dispute led to a bitter war of words between lawyers in dueling letters to court on Wednesday. The judge finally ordered the two parties to agree on a new date for the deposition, adding that it must take place before October 31.
Hurricane Ian “was hitting the Florida peninsula with catastrophic storm surge, winds and flooding,” US Magistrate Sarah Cave wrote, citing the National Hurricane Center. “Under these conditions, the possibility that the deposition could take place on Friday, even remotely, is uncertain.”
Read more: Trump’s doomed video phones loom in backdrop of media foray
Trump, his company and his three eldest children were sued in 2018 by four investors who claim they were duped into paying thousands of dollars to become independent sellers with ACN Opportunity LLC, which sold a convicted videophone device that the Trump touted as the next big thing. but which has been rendered obsolete by smartphones.
Trump fought for years to avoid deposition but finally agreed to answer questions under oath earlier this year after his bid to dismiss the suit failed. The case is one of the lesser-known but more significant legal disputes the former president is facing as he considers a potential White House bid in 2024.
Cave’s order came after a bitter back-and-forth between Trump’s lawyers and those representing investors.
Roberta Kaplan, the attorney for the investors, wrote to the judge on Wednesday saying she was offering to postpone the deposition or move it from Mar-a-Lago to Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, because of storm. But Trump’s lawyers refused, she said.
“We do not believe it to be prudent or safe, and we have been unable to obtain agreement from the defendants to postpone (or move) the deposition,” Kaplan said in the letter.
Trump’s attorneys responded in a scathing letter later Wednesday, contradicting Kaplan.
“We thought it was absolutely absurd to travel from the New York area to West Palm Beach in the middle of a hurricane and would have been happy to reschedule the deposition to another date, but the plaintiffs insisted that it continues,” wrote Clifford S. Robert.
Robert said three of Trump’s lawyers, including Alina Habba, flew to Florida, only to discover on Wednesday that the plaintiffs were seeking to postpone the deposition.
He offered to hold the deposition via Zoom, “for the safety and security of all parties.” Kaplan rejected the proposal in a follow-up letter.
“We have over 70 documents and 20 video clips that we plan or may use,” she told the judge, adding that this made a Zoom deposition impractical.
Hurricane Ian made landfall near Fort Myers, Florida on Wednesday afternoon but is threatening nearly the entire state with high winds, flooding and power outages. “This is going to be a tragic event,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said during a briefing as the storm approached.
According to the lawsuit, the Trumps, who promoted ACN on “Celebrity Apprentice,” lied about their confidence in its products and also failed to disclose that they were paid to promote the company. Trump himself has also starred in promotional videos and appeared in person at events for the company.
He told rookies that “huge” phones, which required ACN’s Internet service to operate, made “half a billion dollars in sales a year”, and that ACN was “at the forefront of innovation “, according to the complaint. The plaintiffs argue that these claims were “abjectly false”.
The case is McKoy v. Trump Corp., 18-CV-9936, US District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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