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Citing Trump’s attacks on ‘hush money’ judge, court keeps E. Jean Carroll rape jury completely anonymous

E. Jean Carroll : Donald Trump

Left: Former President Donald Trump announces he is running for president for the third time at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., Nov. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File). Right: E. Jean Carroll, center, waits to enter a courtroom in New York for her defamation lawsuit against President Donald Trump, March 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File).

Some weeks after cloaking a jury in complete anonymity to preside over E. Jean Carroll’s lawsuit accusing former President Donald Trump of rape, a federal judge refused to relax that ruling even enough to confidentially share their identities with the attorneys.

Senior U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan said he couldn’t issue such an order in “good conscience,” especially in light of Trump’s continuing attacks on the jurist presiding over the former president’s criminal case.

On March 23, 2023, Kaplan said that he needed to protect jurors’ safety and privacy in light of Trump’s attacks on “courts, judges, various law enforcement officials and other public officials, and even individual jurors in other matters.”

“The likelihood of such difficulties since the Court made those findings only has increased,” Kaplan wrote in a six-page ruling on Monday. “That is so in view of Mr . Trump’ s public statements, characterized by the media as attacks against the New York State judge presiding over the recently filed New York State criminal case against Mr. Trump and the threats reportedly then made, presumably by Mr. Trump’s supporters, against that judge and members of his family.”

After this remark, Judge Kaplan footnotes multiple reports about threats pouring into the chambers of Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan in the wake of Trump’s attacks. In one citation, the Washington Post noted that Merchan urged Trump to refrain from making statements that might incite violence. A New York Post article reported that Donald Trump Jr. disseminated an image of Merchan’s daughter.  Fox News and NBC News both reported on the threats the poured in after that.

Kaplan said he issued his anonymity order for a reason.

“The overriding goal is the selection of fair and impartial jurors who can perform their duties free of unwanted media attention, free of inappropriate influence attempts, and free of any fear of harassment or retaliation, regardless of the outcome of the case,” the ruling states. “In light of that preeminent goal, I cannot in good conscience grant the request that these parties’ ‘legal teams’ — or even their attorneys of record only – should have the names of the otherwise anonymous jurors.”

Making clear that he wasn’t casting aspersions on the attorneys, Judge Kaplan said that jurors might not share his high esteem for the Bar.

“There are empirical studies indicating that the public in general does not have a high regard for the trustworthiness of lawyers,” the ruling states. “And it is not speculation to conclude, as I do, that at least some members of the jury in this case, if told that their identities would be confidential from everyone except the lawyers for (let alone ‘legal teams’ of) these parties, likely would not feel confidence that their identities would remain known only to the lawyers or legal teams.”

Carroll alleges that Trump raped her in the dressing room of a Bergdorf Goodman in the mid-1990s. Trump denied the claims by stating Carroll wasn’t his “type.” That remark sparked Carroll’s initial defamation lawsuit, but she has since filed another for sexual battery under New York’s Adult Survivors Act. During his deposition, Trump spelled out the subtext of his initial remark, claiming that he didn’t find Carroll attractive. However, Trump mistook a photograph of Carroll with one of his ex-wife Marla Maples during the same questioning.

Attorneys for Trump and Carroll declined to comment. Trump’s attorney Joe Tacopina also represents the former president in his criminal case. Carroll is represented by Roberta Kaplan, who isn’t related to the judge.

The case goes to trial on April 25.

Read the ruling here.

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."