Talk of lies, pride as Trump case goes to jury
- Article by: MICHAEL TARM
- Associated Press
- May 22, 2013 - 7:15 PM
CHICAGO - The lawyer for an 87-year-old woman who accuses Donald Trump of cheating her in a skyscraper condo deal told jurors in Chicago on Wednesday that he was personally repulsed because he felt the "Apprentice" star conned his client and lied about it on the witness stand.
Plaintiff attorney Shelly Kulwin's comments came during a sarcasm-filled closing argument at the federal civil trial that pits Jacqueline Goldberg against the billionaire real estate mogul-turned TV showman.
His voice rising, Kulwin portrayed the case as a battle between Trump, who he described as a wheeler-dealer, and a woman with wholesome values learned growing up during the Depression.
Trump, of New York, wasn't in court for the closings. But Kulwin projected a photograph of the beaming developer on a large courtroom screen.
"The thought of my grandma being in the same room with that guy. Yuck!" Kulwin said. The judge told jurors to disregard the comment.
Later, the attorney said Trump was motivated to cheat his client by a love for money.
"It's like his family, those dollars," Kulwin said.
Jurors withdrew to begin deliberations later Wednesday but went home after 90 minutes without reaching a verdict. They were to resume Thursday morning.
City pride intervened during closings when Kulwin appeared to make an unfavorable reference to executives in New York.
"Judge, he's mocking New York," Trump attorney Stephen Novack said, standing to object.
"I can't mock New York?" Kulwin shot back. "I thought it was every Chicagoan's right to do that."
Addressing jurors next, Novack accused Kulwin of resorting to personal attacks on Trump out of desperation and a lack of evidence.
Goldberg alleges Trump persuaded her to buy two condos at around $1 million apiece in Chicago's glitzy Trump International Hotel & Tower by promising she would share in building profits. But, Goldberg says, Trump reneged after she committed to the investment.
"It's called a bait and switch," Kulwin told jurors. "Here's the bait. Here's the switch."
But Trump's attorney described Goldberg as a detail-oriented investor who knew the contract that she signed stipulated Trump could cancel the profit-sharing offer as he saw fit.
"She knows the drill," Novack said. "Nobody put a gun to her head (to sign)."
He later added: "Mrs. Goldberg went into this deal with her eyes wide open."
Since the contract gave Trump rights to change the profit-sharing offer, Novack said the onus was on Goldberg's attorneys to prove Trump secretly plotted to defraud her before she even signed up to buy.
"What do they call it? A bait and switch," he said. "Switch is not enough. ... There is no evidence whatsoever of a secret plan."
In two days of sometimes combative testimony last week, Trump denied cheating Goldberg. And he told reporters outside court that he was the victim, not her. He declared, "She's trying to rip me off."
On Wednesday, though, Kulwin said Trump took the stand "to lie, evade and spout infomercials."
He also mocked Trump for telling jurors he never took notes of business meetings and therefore couldn't say when certain decisions were made and by whom.
"People who don't want to be found out don't write things down. They're not stupid," Kulwin said. "And Donald Trump may be a lot of things, but he's not stupid."
Kulwin told jurors Goldberg was seeking a total of $6 million in damages.
"Send a message not just to Mr. Trump ... but to others like him," he said pounding his hand on a podium. "You can say to them, `These people who do these things have crossed the line.'"
In his final remarks, Trump's attorney told jurors their obligation was to the evidence, not to their sense of sympathy or to any urge to send a message.
"This isn't the chance for you to decide that Wall Street is bad ... and (now) we're going to show these fat cats," Novack said. "Look at the facts."
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