The former president used social media to attack a clerk for the judge in his civil fraud case, and left a copy of the post online for weeks.
The judge presiding over the civil fraud trial of Donald J. Trump fined the former president $5,000 on Friday for a “blatant violation” of a gag order imposed this month.
The judge, Arthur F. Engoron, stopped short of holding Mr. Trump in contempt but warned that the former president still could face harsher punishments, even jail time, if he ran afoul of the order again.
In the trial’s opening days, Justice Engoron had barred Mr. Trump from attacking his court staff after the former president posted a picture on social media of Justice Engoron’s law clerk, Allison Greenfield, with Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader. Mr. Trump labeled Ms. Greenfield “Schumer’s girlfriend” and said she was “running this case against me.”
A spokeswoman for Mr. Schumer this month called the social media post “ridiculous, absurd, and false,” adding that the senator did not know Ms. Greenfield.
Mr. Trump’s post was removed from his social media platform, Truth Social, on Oct. 3, the day Justice Engoron imposed the gag order, but a copy of the post remained visible on his campaign website.
The post was finally removed from the website around 10 p.m. on Thursday, after Justice Engoron learned of it and contacted Mr. Trump’s legal team. A lawyer for Mr. Trump, Christopher M. Kise, said in court on Friday that the failure to remove the post sooner was “inadvertent.” He apologized on behalf of Mr. Trump.
In a new order on Friday, Justice Engoron said he had imposed only a “nominal” $5,000 fine because it was Mr. Trump’s first violation and an unintentional error, but he warned that additional infractions would merit harsher punishments.
“Make no mistake: future violations, whether intentional or unintentional, will subject the violator to far more severe sanctions,” Justice Engoron wrote. He said possible punishments included steeper fines, holding Mr. Trump in contempt of court and “possibly imprisoning him.”
The judge added that, “In the current overheated climate, incendiary untruths can, and in some cases already have, led to serious physical harm, and worse.”
Mr. Trump, who has frequently attacked judges, prosecutors and witnesses in the civil and criminal cases against him, is subject to limitations on his speech not only in the Manhattan fraud case, but a federal case in which he is accused of trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
The judges overseeing the cases must strike a balance between respecting the First Amendment rights of a man seeking the White House again and keeping their courts orderly and dignified.
They also must consider what would be an effective punishment — and deterrent — for a man who estimates his net worth in the billions.
In the gag order, Justice Engoron had said that personal attacks on his staff were “unacceptable” and that he would “not tolerate them under any circumstances.”
He forbade any posts, emails or public remarks about his staff members, adding that serious punishments would follow were he disobeyed.
Both his gag order and the one levied by Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, the federal judge in Washington overseeing the election case, leave Mr. Trump wide ambit for comment.
Judge Chutkan’s written order prevents Mr. Trump from making public comments targeting her staff, the special counsel Jack Smith and his employees, and “any reasonably foreseeable witnesses.”
But Mr. Trump remains free to criticize his political opponents, the judges themselves and an American justice system he has described as rigged against him.
Mr. Trump has also taken aim at Letitia James, the New York attorney general, who brought the civil fraud case against him, his adult sons and their family business.
Ms. James has accused them of fraudulently inflating Mr. Trump’s net worth to obtain favorable loans from banks. The trial will continue next week with the testimony of Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer turned nemesis.
Mr. Trump himself was absent from the proceedings on Friday, but he attended the trial earlier in the week, using the camera-lined hallway outside the courtroom to issue periodic statements on his legal cases and political matters.
In person, he did not come close to violating Justice Engoron’s order.