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Trump seeks to delay civil rape trial, saying media tainted jury pool

Opposing counsel quickly pooh-poohed the request, saying "so much of the publicity [Trump] complains about has been driven by his own incendiary statements."

MANHATTAN (CN) — In a bid to delay the upcoming trial where three women will accuse him of sexual assault, Donald Trump complained that it will be impossible to find an impartial jury on schedule after his unrelated criminal arraignment — a first in U.S. history for a current or former president — drew a “carnival atmosphere with hundreds of demonstrators and reporters."

The civil suit pits Trump against writer E. Jean Carroll, who says Trump raped her in the mid-1990s in a dressing room of the Bergdorf Goodman department store. At the trial, set for late April, Carroll will call two other women who claim Trump assaulted them in similar circumstances decades apart, including forcibly kissing or groping them. Jurors will also see the notorious “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump, recorded on a hot mic, boasts about his tendency to “just start kissing” women and being allowed to “grab them by the pussy.” 

According to Trump’s attorneys, interest in the Carroll case spiked after Trump was indicted and arraigned last week on 34 felony charges tying him to hush money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy playmate Karen McDougal leading up to the 2016 presidential election. 

“Holding the trial of this case a mere three weeks after these historic events will guarantee that many, if not most, prospective jurors will have the criminal allegations top of mind when judging President Trump’s defense against Ms. Carroll’s allegations,” Trump’s attorney Joseph Tacopina wrote in a letter filed late on Tuesday. 

The defense attorney noted that the Manhattan criminal court where Trump appeared is “just steps from” the federal courthouse where the civil trial will take place, and asked to push back the trial in the Southern District of New York by four weeks to hold it during what he predicts will be a quieter media moment.

“President Trump’s right to a fair trial depends on a brief ‘cooling off’ period between the trial of this matter and the recent deluge of prejudicial media converge concerning his unprecedented criminal indictment and arraignment in Manhattan," the letter states.

Carroll opposes the delay request. 

“Waiting an additional four weeks will do nothing to ‘cool’ the unavoidable press and security concerns that will attend this trial,” attorney Roberta Kaplan wrote in a letter filed Wednesday. 

The voir dire process, Kaplan argued, is sufficient to ensure a fair trial and impartial jury. As for the uptick of interest in Trump’s legal affairs, Kaplan cited internet search data showing that searches for “Donald Trump” and “Donald Trump Indictment” picked up only briefly and have already fallen by 85% to approximate parity with preindictment levels. 

Not only is it unsurprising for the mounting legal issues of a former president and future candidate to make the news, Kaplan said, but it’s Trump himself who often prompts the coverage he now claims jeopardizes his defense. Trump’s motion came just two hours after he talked about the indictment on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News. 

“If anything, it is somewhat perverse for Trump to seek a continuance in these proceedings based on the recent indictment,” Kaplan wrote, “when so much of the publicity he complains about has been driven by his own incendiary statements.” 

Follow @NinaPullano
Categories / Civil Rights, Media, National, Trials

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