Trump’s protest calls lead to anonymous jury in rape trial

Tribune Content Agency

NEW YORK — Donald Trump’s habit of calling for protests against his detractors warrants the use of a rare anonymous jury at the trial next month of civil sexual assault claims brought against the former president by New York author E. Jean Carroll, a judge ruled.

Keeping the names of jurors secret — more common in cases over organized crime and terrorism — is necessary to prevent “harassment or worse” by Trump supporters, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan said in a ruling Thursday. The judge cited Trump’s call last week for protests against what the former president described as his imminent arrest in a separate case by the Manhattan district attorney, urging his supporters to “take our country back.”

“That reaction reportedly has been perceived by some as incitement to violence,” Kaplan wrote. “And it bears mention that Mr. Trump repeatedly has attacked courts, judges, various law enforcement officials and other public officials, and even individual jurors in other matters.”

Concern about juror safety is likely to increase as Trump faces several legal battles while seeking to return to the White House in 2024. The New York attorney general’s $250 million civil fraud suit against Trump is set for trial in October, and a proposed class-action fraud case over his promotions on “Celebrity Apprentice” is set to go before a jury in January. A range of potential criminal cases against Trump could also put jurors at risk.

The names, addresses and occupations of all prospective jurors in the Carroll case will be kept secret during the jury-selection process, Kaplan said. The judge also ordered the U.S. Marshal Service to pick up and drop off jurors together or in groups “from one or more undisclosed location or locations” each day of the trial, which is expected to last at least a week.

Carroll, once a prominent advice columnist with Elle magazine, went public in 2019 with her claim that Trump raped her in a dressing room in the 1990s. She sued him for sexual battery last year under the Adult Survivors Act, a New York law that temporarily lifted the statute of limitations on abuse that allegedly occurred decades ago. The case is set for trial April 25 in Manhattan.

The former president has denied attacking Carroll and claims the case is part of a broader “witch hunt” against him. He didn’t object to the use of an anonymous jury. “We consented to it,” Trump’s lawyer Joe Tacopina said in a statement. “It is appropriate.”

Carroll also didn’t object. Her lawyer Roberta Kaplan declined to comment.

Jan. 6 Attack

In his ruling, Kaplan referenced the assault on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, which unfolded shortly after Trump called for action at a charged Washington rally. The attack — protesting Trump’s loss to Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election — resulted in more than 140 police officers being injured and millions of dollars in damage.

Some people charged in connection with the attack “have argued that their actions were attributable to what the individuals perceived, rightly or wrongly, as incitement by Mr. Trump,” the judge said.

Kaplan also cited Trump’s “critical statements” on social media about the special grand jury foreperson in Atlanta, Georgia, where authorities are investigating Trump’s effort to reverse his election loss in the state, as well as the jury foreperson in Roger Stone’s criminal case.

Anonymous jurors have been used in New York criminal cases against organized crime figures like John Gotti, drug lords like Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and prosecutions of members of al-Qaida for fatal bombings at U.S. embassies. Kaplan said the civil suit against Trump isn’t like those cases but is unique because of Trump’s history.

The case is Carroll v. Trump, 1:22-cv-10016, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan).