U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan tore into former President Donald Trump’s incitement and his rant about being arrested in a ruling on a motion in the defamation case brought by rape accuser E. Jean Carroll.
Judge Kaplan issued a scathing ruling in the defamation suit Carroll filed in 2019 after Trump accused her of lying about being raped by him. The question was whether the case should proceed with an anonymous jury. In deciding the issue, Judge Kaplan referenced Trump’s recent rant about his allegedly impending arrest, a well as other examples of incitement and “violent rhetoric.”
From the ruling:
Mr. Trump’s quite recent reaction to what he perceived as an imminent threat of indictment by a grand jury sitting virtually next door to this Court was to encourage “protest” and to urge people to “take our country back.”‘ That reaction reportedly has been perceived by some as incitement to violence.’
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.’
In addition to Mr. Trump’s past words and actions together with perceptions of them by many people, it is highly relevant that this case already has been the subject of widespread media coverage. Even the most modest developments have attracted a good deal of attention.
That coverage is likely only to increase once the trial is imminent or in process. In these circumstances, this Court is obliged to consider the likely effect on jurors of the matters just described, similar events in the relatively recent past, and the likely future course of events, including the inevitable extensive media coverage. And it cannot properly ignore the significant risk that jurors selected to serve in this case will be affected by concern that they could be targeted for unwanted media attention, outside pressure, and retaliation and harassment from persons unhappy with any verdict that might be returned.
Kaplan warned that without an anonymous jury, there would be a “strong likelihood” of “influence attempts, and/or of harassment or worse of jurors by supporters of Mr. Trump”:
Indeed, Mr. Trump himself has made critical statements on social media regarding the grand jury foreperson in Atlanta, Georgia, and the jury foreperson in the Roger Stone criminal case. And this properly may be viewed in the context of Mr. Trump’s many statements regarding individual judges, the judiciary in general, and other public officials, as well as what reports have characterized as “violent rhetoric” by Mr. Trump including before his presidency.
The judge noted that neither party to the suit objected to an anonymous jury, and only media outlets did object. But he was unpersuaded by their argument, which he said omitted the “overriding principle” of the precedent they cited:
On the basis of the unprecedented circumstances in which this trial will take place, including the extensive pretrial publicity and a very strong risk that jurors will fear harassment, unwanted invasions of their privacy, and retaliation by virtue of the matters referred to above, the Court finds that there is strong reason to believe that the jury needs the protection prescribed below. No less restrictive alternative has even been suggested. The presumption of access to juror names is overcome by this risk.
Trump has consistently and relentlessly attacked E. Jean Carroll since she went public with her allegations.