16 Injured After Man Deliberately Sets Fire Outside Trump Judge’s Chambers

19 Dec, 2023 Liz Carey

                               

New York, NY (WorkersCompensation.com) – Officials said at least 16 people working at the New York City courtroom where former President Donald Trump’s civil business fraud trial was taking place, were treated for minor injuries after a man started a fire inside the building.

According to police reports, Paris Nesbitt, 38, was arrested and charged with second-degree attempted arson and reckless endangerment, after he created a small fire by igniting paperwork and then fire extinguishers in the area. The incident happened on the fourth floor of the courthouse at 60 Centre Street, outside of the robing chambers for Judge Arthur Engoron, the judge overseeing Trump’s fraud case.

While Engoron was in his robing room at the time, and was among those evacuated, the trial had finished up four hours prior. President Trump was not in the building at the time of the event.

Officials said Engoron and others on the floor were evacuated from the building. The New York Fire Department responded to the fire, a court spokesperson said, and three floors of the courthouse were evacuated.

While there were no serious injuries, 16 people required medical assistance, including a sergeant and a court officer who were transported to NY Downtown Hospital for observation.

“The incident is being investigated and the individual is in custody,” Alfred Baker, a state court system spokesperson said after the incident.

By 5 p.m., court employees were allowed to return to the floors and retrieve their things to leave for the day. One officer reportedly told the judge and others returning to the fourth floor, “If you have a mask, wear your mask,” due to contaminants from the fire extinguishers laying on the floor.

Police said that Nesbitt, who was not a courthouse employee, set fire to several handwritten criticisms of the court system. Then, as the papers burned, Nesbitt allegedly grabbed two fire extinguishers and attempted to put the fires out.

"I started the fire, then I put it out," prosecutors said he told court officers.

What prompted him to set the blaze wasn’t immediately clear.

The incident was a bizarre addition to a trial already primed for danger. Engoron and his chief law clerk have received hundreds of threats after critical remarks made by the former President.

Engoron issued a gag order in the case barring Trump from speaking publicly about his law clerk, after Trump erroneously posted she was U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) girlfriend and criticized her role in the case. Engoron further extended the order to bar lawyers from commenting on the clerk’s communications with the court.

Trump appealed, arguing the orders violated his First Amendment rights to free speech. The gag order was reinstated by an appeals panel.

The New York Attorney General’s Office said in a filing that the court orders were in response to “extraordinary and dangerous personal attacks made against the court’s staff” and others. The filing says that Trump and his lawyers "repeatedly made baseless, highly inappropriate, and personally identifying attacks against the court's principal law clerk" and that the attacks continued despite multiple warnings.

During the appeals case, testimony revealed Engoron’s law clerk has receive 20 to 30 calls per day to her personal cell phone and 30 to 50 messages daily on social media platforms and two personal email addresses, court records indicated.

In a sworn statement, Charles Hollon, a court officer-captain in the Judicial Threats Assessment unit of the New York City Department of Public Safety, said the threats against the judge and his clerk were “considered to be serious and credible and not hypothetical or speculative.”

Trump’s attorney’s said Trump should be able discuss his perception of bias without retribution in order to maintain the public’s confidence in the trial.

“At base, the disturbing behavior engaged in by anonymous, third-party actors towards the judge and Principal Law Clerk publicly presiding over an extremely polarizing and high-profile trial merits appropriate security measures,” Trump’s attorneys wrote in their arguments. “However, it does not justify the wholesale abrogation of Petitioners’ First Amendment rights in a proceeding of immense stakes to Petitioners, which has been compromised by the introduction of partisan bias on the bench.”

Officers said there is no indication that Nesbitt’s actions were in direct connection to Trump’s trial. Nesbitt’s bail was set at $50,000 cash or $150,000 bond after prosecutors argued the fires Nesbitt set could have endangered many lives.


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    About The Author

    • Liz Carey

      Liz Carey has worked as a writer, reporter and editor for nearly 25 years. First, as an investigative reporter for Gannett and later as the Vice President of a local Chamber of Commerce, Carey has covered everything from local government to the statehouse to the aerospace industry. Her work as a reporter, as well as her work in the community, have led her to become an advocate for the working poor, as well as the small business owner.

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