Some six months after New York’s highest court dismissed Donald Trump’s appeal, his accuser Summer Zervos asked to schedule his deposition before Christmas during her first hearing of his post-presidency on Monday. The judge’s law clerk indicated that all fact-discovery in the case—including depositions of Trump and Zervos—will be wrapped up before Christmas.
Trump’s new lawyer signaled that she intended to file a counterclaim under New York’s new anti-SLAPP law, a statute designed to deter lawsuits intended to chill speech.
A former contestant of Trump’s reality TV show The Apprentice, Zervos filed her lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court three days before the former president’s tenure officially began. Zervos alleges that Trump groped her at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2007.
Zervos’s lawyer Moira Kim Penza signaled her intention to move things quickly, confirming she would try to depose Trump.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Schecter’s law clerk Michael Rand said that there was no more reason for delay, now that a prior stay on the case has been lifted during Trump’s post-presidency. Before Trump left office, the court had to accommodate the time demands involving a sitting president.
“Now, he’s a private citizen,” Rand noted, setting a deadline to end all fact discovery—including depositions—by Dec. 23.
According to the complaint, Zervos said Trump “ambushed” her, forcing himself on her in his hotel room against her will and also touched her breasts and pressed his genitals against her without consent “on more than one occasion.”
The lawsuit, however, springs less from the allegations themselves than Trump’s reaction to them.
After Zervos accused Trump in the wake of the “Access Hollywood” disclosure, the then-candidate insisted: “To be clear, I never met her at a hotel or greeted her inappropriately a decade ago.” Trump later tweeted on his then-active Twitter account that the parade of women accusing him of sexual misconduct “made up” claims that “never happened.”
Zervos’s lawsuit quotes Trump’s remarks to Billy Bush in the leaked tape as a prelude to what happened to her: “I don’t even wait, and when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything,” Trump boasted in his well-publicized, campaign-shaking remarks.
On Jan. 17, 2017, three days before Inauguration Day, Zervos sued in New York County Supreme Court. The presiding judge advanced the case a little more than a year later.
“No one is above the law,” Judge Jennifer Schecter wrote in March 2018, in a 19-page opinion that cited a 1997 ruling where the Supreme Court upheld a defamation suit against then-President Bill Clinton.
Then-President Trump appealed the order at ever turn, claiming that his office made him immune from such civil claims. An intermediate appellate court in New York rejected Trump’s challenge, and Trump had lost the 2020 election and left office by the time state’s top court rejected last-ditch appeal as “moot.”
“Now a private citizen, the defendant has no further excuse to delay justice for Ms. Zervos, and we are eager to get back to the trial court and prove her claims,” Zervos’s attorney Beth Wilkinson said in statement following the order this past March.
Trump’s legal team experienced a shake-up in advance of Monday’s hearing. Trump’s longtime lawyer Marc Kasowitz left the case to be replaced by Bedminster, N.J.-based attorney Alina Habba. A founder and managing partner at the law firm Habba Madaio & Associates, LLP, Habba also represents the former president in his recent lawsuit against his niece Mary Trump. Habba’s firm’s Bedminster offices are just a 10-minute drive away from Trump National Golf Club Bedminster.
Aside from announcing her intended counterclaim, Habba said she intended to depose Zervos and need her medical records before then, as Zervos asserted a claim for emotional damages. Zervos said that she already turned over more than 500 pages of such records.
The proceedings began on Monday at noon and added roughly 30 minutes later.
[images via YouTube screengrabs]
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