Donald Trump unlikely to testify in person at next week’s trial in West Palm Beach

Donald Trump is not expected to appear in person in federal court in West Palm Beach next week to refute allegations that he improperly kept as much as $6 million in refundable deposits from members when he took over a country club in Jupiter four years ago.

Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump holds a copy of his magazine during a press conference at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida on March 8, 2016. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump holds a copy of his magazine during a press conference at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida in March. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

In court papers filed late Monday, both Trump’s attorneys and those representing members of the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter both said depositions taken of the GOP presidential candidate would be read to U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra, who will be deciding the case.

While a jury trial was planned, Marra last month approved a request from both sides that he alone decide the dispute that has raged since Trump bought the club on Donald Ross Road near Alternate A1A for $5 million from Ritz-Carlton Golf Club & Spa.

While Marra rejected Trump’s request to throw out the lawsuit, attorneys representing the real-estate-tycoon-turned-reality-TV-star have asked the judge to reconsider that decision. In the alternative, Miami attorney Herman Joseph Russomanno III is asking Marra not to allow the case to proceed as a class-action lawsuit.

Members of the club claim that Trump breached contracts they had with the Ritz when he in 2012 took over the club that had been losing as much as $4.2 million a month under its prior owners.

Under Ritz-Carton’s rules, members could continue to pay dues and use the club even after announcing their intentions to resign. Once a new member signed up, however, their deposits, which ranged from $35,000 to $210,000, were to be refunded.

Once Trump took over, he wrote a letter, alerting those who announced their intentions to resign “you’re out.” Members say they were denied entry to the club. Trump attorneys said it was because they hadn’t paid their dues. Further, Trump attorneys said, members could get their deposits back once new members joined.

Eric Trump, who operates the club for his father, is also on the witness list for the trial that is to begin Monday. It is unclear whether he will testify in person or, like his father, will allow sworn statements he made in previous depositions to be used to explain his position.

The club was the site of a primary campaign event in March where Trump surrounded himself with various products that bear his name, such as Trump magazine, Trump Steaks and Trump water, to dispute allegations from GOP rivals that many of his products were failures. It is also where his then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was accused of manhandling an online news reporter. Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg declined to file charges.


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