Judge, like jury, sides with Trump

Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) — Tally another big win for billionaire Donald Trump in his legal battle with an 87-year-old who claimed "The Apprentice" star cheated her in a skyscraper-condo deal.

A judge in Chicago sided with Trump Friday on two outstanding allegations, following last week's related civil trial in which jurors also gave the nod to the real estate magnate.

In her 38-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve agreed with Trump that Jacqueline Goldberg was "a sophisticated" investor who could not plausibly claim to have been duped. The Evanston woman alleged Trump promised her profit sharing if she bought two condos at the glitzy Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago, but said he reneged after she committed to buy.

But Goldberg signed a buyers' contract giving Trump rights to withdraw the offer, and Goldberg had plenty of time to cancel the purchases without penalty, the judge concluded.

"Ms. Goldberg's lack of urgency" to pull out of the purchases when she still could "undercuts her argument that the changes (about profit sharing) were such an outrageous surprise," St. Eve wrote.

Goldberg — who the judge noted has a master's degree in accounting — knew or should have known the risk of the profit-sharing deal being withdrawn, the judge said. Goldberg signed her contract in 2006 before the hotel-condo was completed and so, the judge said, Trump may well have had "understandable" business reasons for altering the contract terms.

Trump's lawyer, Stephen Novack, called Friday's ruling "decisive" and "thorough," adding that it meant his client has now prevailed on all the core legal issues.

Goldberg's attorney, Shelly Kulwin, said he was disappointed.

"I respectfully disagree with (the ruling), obviously," he said. Asked about the possibility of an appeal on either the judge's or jury's rulings, Kulwin said, "We are discussing it with our client."

The case stemmed from a lawsuit filed by Goldberg in 2009. Jurors rejected the fraud-related allegations, and St. Eve decided the claims about a breach of contract and violation the Illinois Condominium Act — siding with Trump on both.

The sometimes-acrimonious jury trial, which lasted a week, featured two days of testimony by Trump. He told jurors about the contract stipulation, contending that Goldberg bought the condos knowing it was there.

"And then she sued me," he boomed, raising his arms. "It's unbelievable!"

Goldberg, who had sought damages totaling around $6 million, told reporters after the jury decision went against her last week that she had no regrets about suing Trump.

"I think I have exposed him for what he is. I had to try," she said.

A little later the same day, Trump criticized Goldberg for taking him to court, saying, "She should be ashamed of herself."

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Follow Michael Tarm at http://www.twitter.com/mtarm.