Apr 20, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Trump not legally required to attend civil rape trial, judge says

Former President Trump speaking in Indianapolis, Indiana, on April 14.

Former President Trump speaking in Indianapolis, Indiana, on April 14. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

A federal judge presiding over writer E. Jean Carroll's sexual assault lawsuit against former President Trump rejected his legal team's argument that his appearance at an upcoming trial would be too much of a burden on New York City.

Driving the news: Trump's lawyer in the case, Joe Tacopina, requested Wednesday in a letter that the judge instruct jurors that Trump "wishes to appear" at the trial but his absence "avoids the logistical burdens that his presence, as the former president, would cause the courthouse and New York City."

  • Tacopina, citing Trump's recent arraignment hearing in Manhattan over charges related to 2016 hush money payments, said parts of streets would have to be blocked off, Secret Service agents would have to accompany Trump everywhere and portions of the courthouse would have to be locked down if he were to attend.

Details: U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan rejected the claim in a letter to Tacopina on Thursday.

  • The judge also declared the special jury instructions request "premature" because the former president is currently not legally required to either appear or testify in the trial.
  • "As far as the Court is aware, Mr. Trump is under no legal obligation to be present or to testify. The plaintiff has made clear that she does not intend to call him as a witness. The decision whether to attend or to testify is his alone to make. There is nothing for the Court to excuse."
  • Kaplan pushed back on the claimed burden of Trump's appearance by pointing out that the former president plans to attend a campaign event in New Hampshire on April 27, which is the third day of the trial.
  • "If the Secret Service can protect him at that event, certainly the Secret Service, the Marshals Service and the City of New York can see to his security in this very secure federal courthouse," Kaplan wrote.
  • The judge also noted that Trump was notified of the April 25 trial date in early February, meaning he had "ample time" to make whatever logistical arrangements were necessary.

The big picture: Carroll's lawsuit alleges that Trump raped her in a New York department store in the mid-1990s. Trump has denied the accusation.

  • The writer was able to bring her lawsuit forward after New York passed the Adult Survivors Act (ASA) last year, which allows adult survivors of sexual violence to sue over attacks that occurred decades ago.
  • Trump tried to dismiss the lawsuit by claiming the ASA violates due process, but Kaplan rejected the attempt in January, calling the legal argument "without merit."

Go deeper: Trump lawyer says LinkedIn founder bankrolled E. Jean Carroll's lawsuit

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