Jury deliberates whether Donald Trump ‘conned’ 87-year-old woman
BY KIM JANSSEN Federal Courts Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org May 22, 2013 11:26AM
Donald Trump Leaves the Dirksen Federal Building Wednesday afternoon after testifying in a trial involving the sale of condos at Trump Tower. Wednesday, May 15, 2013 | Brian Jackson/Sun-Times
Updated: June 24, 2013 1:52PM
Is Donald Trump a “reprehensible” conman who ripped off an Evanston grandmother and “stole her faith in other people?”
Or is the real estate magnate being unfairly sued by a “sophisticated investor” who bought two hotel condos in the Trump Tower “with her eyes wide open” but got buyer’s remorse and backed out?
Those — in a nutshell — were the key questions jurors hearing a federal civil lawsuit brought against Trump by 87-year-old Jackie Goldberg were left with at the end of an unusually ugly week-and-a-half trial Wednesday.
Goldberg wants the jury to force Trump to pay her $6 million in damages.
She says she paid a $500,000 deposit on two condos at the Trump International Hotel in 2006 because Trump’s salesmen promised her a cut of the ballroom and catering business.
But Trump says Goldberg always knew a clause in their contract gave him the right to snatch back those profits for himself in 2007.
If the jury sides against him, it could hurt his reputation as much as his wallet.
Goldberg’s attorney, Shelly Kulwin, put questions about Trump’s character at the center of what he called a “bait and switch” case.
“He lured her in, got up her hopes, he scammed her and he told her to go take a jump...isn’t that reprehensible?” Kulwin said during his closing argument.
And in an aside that brought a rebuke from Judge Amy St. Eve, he added of Trump, “The thought of my grandmother being in the same room as him — yuck!”
Both sides agree the key question is whether Trump planned all along to grab back the ballrooms.
Trump’s attorney, Stephen Novack, said it was “outlandish ...speculation” that “Donald Trump had a secret plan he kept from his most trusted executives.”
But Kulwin countered that it was “inconceivable” Trump ever intended to give away $40 million worth of real estate to condo owners. He said the only organization he could think of that kept as few records as Trump’s was “The Mafia.”
He urged jurors to “send a message not just to Donald Trump and his executives but to all those people who have turned all our values upside down over the last several years.”
That message, he said, was “the measure of your conduct is not, should not and cannot be ‘I know what I’m doing is wrong but can I get away with it? ...And if I do get caught, can I spin it?’”
But Novack told jurors “this isn’t a chance to show that Wall Street is bad,” urging them to focus on facts.
The lawyers’ bickering reached a comic climax when Kulwin made a disparaging remark about Trump executives in the Big Apple, only for Novack to leap to his feet and exclaim, “Objection your honor ...he’s mocking New York!”
“I thought that was every Chicagoan’s right,” Kulwin countered.
Jurors, who went home Wednesday evening after deliberating for 90 minutes, are due to return Thursday.