Will Trump attend his rape trial? Judge wants to know

NEW YORK (AP) – A federal judge wants to know if ex-President Donald Trump plans to attend a New York trial this month resulting from a columnist’s claims that he raped her in a department store dressing room in the 1990s.

Judge Lewis A. Kaplan issued an order Monday directing parties in the case to notify him by April 20 whether they will be present throughout the trial, scheduled to start April 25 in Manhattan federal court. And later in the day, he rejected a request that names of anonymous jurors be released to lawyers, saying Trump’s latest public statements about a criminal case against him in state court show jurors might be harassed if their identities got out.

A writer, E. Jean Carroll, sued Trump in November, saying he raped her in early 1996 after a chance meeting at the Bergdorf Goodman department store. He has repeatedly and emphatically denied it in language sure to be highlighted for a jury that will decide whether the rape occurred and if Trump defamed Carroll with his comments.

The rape claims were made immediately after a temporary state law took effect allowing adult rape victims to sue their abusers, even if attacks happened decades ago.

Trump’s lawyers did not respond Monday to requests for comment on Kaplan’s order.

Attorney Roberta Kaplan, no relation to the judge, said Carroll “intends to be present for the entire trial.”

In his order, the judge asked “each party” to notify him in writing whether he or she intends to attend the entire trial. If not, he asked to be told what dates and times each individual will be absent.

The judge said the order was not to be construed to suggest whether either side is obliged to be present throughout the trial or what legal consequences could result from a decision not to be present the entire time.

The judge was likely interested in learning exactly when Trump might be in court because of the special security arrangements that would be required for a Secret Service-protected former president who is campaigning for a second term in office.

Last week, Trump arrived in a motorcade for a New York state court arraignment where he pleaded not guilty to a 34-count felony indictment charging him with breaking the law in a quest to silence women who claimed extramarital affairs with him years before his successful campaign for the presidency on the Republican ticket in 2016.

Judge Kaplan cited public comments Trump made after the appearance, as he rejected a request by lawyers on both sides in the rape case to be told the names of anonymous jurors. Recently, he ruled that the jury will be anonymous, citing in part the “strong likelihood” that there could be “harassment or worse” of jurors by Trump supporters.

“The likelihood of such difficulties since the Court made those findings only has increased. That is so in view of Mr. Trump’s public statements,” he said, citing media reports characterizing Trump’s statements as attacks against the presiding judge over his criminal case.

The judge also cited “the threats reportedly then made, presumably by Mr. Trump’s supporters, against that judge and members of his family.” In a footnote, the judge cited media reports including a story that said the judge in the criminal case got death threats after Trump’s arrest.

In October, Trump underwent a videotaped deposition in which he was questioned about Carroll’s claims, which were first made publicly in a 2019 memoir by the former longtime Elle magazine columnist.

In the deposition, Trump was dismissive of Carroll’s claims, saying: “Physically she’s not my type.”

Even if Trump decides not to attend the trial, it is likely that significant portions of his deposition will be watched by the jury.

In recent weeks, the judge has denied requests by Trump’s lawyers to exclude testimony from two women who made sexual abuse claims against Trump in circumstances similar to those alleged by Carroll and from two individuals who worked at the department store at the time the rape allegedly occurred.

He also has ruled that jurors can hear misogynistic remarks Trump made about women in 2005 on an “Access Hollywood” tape.

The Associated Press generally does not identify people who allege they have been sexually assaulted, unless they come forward publicly, as Carroll has done.

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