The jury in the civil battery and defamation case brought by E. Jean Carroll against Donald Trump is scheduled to retire to consider the verdict today.
Last Thursday, while on a golf trip to Ireland, Trump said that he would be cutting short his trip and returning to the US so as to ‘confront’ his rape accuser at his trial, even though he had not been on the original witness list.
Trump told reporters last week he would “probably attend” the trial.
“I’m going back to New York. I was falsely accused by this woman, I have no idea who she is – it’s ridiculous,” he claimed. “I’ll be going back early because a woman made a claim that is totally false, it’s fake,” he added.
Trump also called the case a “political attack” and claimed the judge was “extremely hostile” and “doesn’t like me very much.”
But shortly after that, his lawyer Joe Tacopina said in court that they were resting their case and usually that closes the door to any more witnesses. I think Trump made his statement as an act of bravado, never intending to carry it out, but designed to show his confidence and also so that when the judge refused to allow him to testify, he could once again claim that the judge was biased against him.
But US district judge Lewis Kaplan judge called his bluff and said that he would leave the window open until Sunday evening for Tacopina to file a request for Trump to appear. But of course Trump chickened out, no such request was made, and he did not testify.
Earlier, Tacopina wanted to tell the jury that Trump wanted to testify but would not out of consideration for the security burden caused by his appearance. But the judge was having none of that obvious self-serving excuse either. Trump could testify or not testify, that was his choice to make, but he could not claim that he wanted to but was being solicitous of the inconvenience caused to others. (When has Trump ever cared about the needs of others?)
If former President Donald Trump opts not to attend his trial next week in which he stands accused of defaming and battering writer E. Jean Carroll, a federal judge ruled Thursday that his lawyer can make no mention of the “burdens” that might spare New York City.
Trump attorney Joe Tacopina had asked the judge on Wednesday to inform the jury that if Trump didn’t appear for the trail in lower Manhattan, it would be to avoid the “logistical and financial burdens upon New York City, its residents, and court itself.”
Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is presiding over Carroll’s lawsuit against Trump, said Thursday that the decision whether to attend the trial or testify is Trump’s alone, and that Trump has had “ample time” to make the necessary arrangements.
“Moreover, the Court notes from Mr. Trump’s campaign web site and media reports that he announced earlier this week that he will speak at a campaign event in New Hampshire on April 27, 2023, the third day of the scheduled trial in this case,” Kaplan said in his ruling. “If the Secret Service can protect him at that event, certainly the Secret Service, the Marshals Service, and the City of New York can see to his security in this very secure federal courthouse.”
Kaplan said it was premature to tell the jury anything about Trump’s presence or absence.
“Should he elect not to appear or testify, his counsel may renew the request,” Kaplan said. “In the meantime, there shall be no reference by counsel for Mr. Trump in the presence of the jury panel or the trial jury to Mr. Trump’s alleged desire to testify or to the burdens that any absence on his part allegedly might spare, or might have spared, the Court of the city of New York.”
Carroll’s lawyers presented eleven witnesses. A list of all of them and the gist of their testimony can be read here. Trump’s side did not call any witnesses, which is highly unusual in a civil trial.
Yesterday, the two sides made their closing arguments. Carroll’s attorney Roberta Kaplan (no relation to the judge, of course) pointed out his absence and how widely different were the reputations for veracity of her witnesses versus that of Trump
Kaplan pointed out that Trump didn’t attend the trial, even though clips from his deposition were shown.
“And you only saw him on video, He didn’t even bother to show up here in person,” Kaplan said.
Carroll’s attorney showed clips of Trump’s video deposition taken last October including a moment where Trump mistook Carroll for his ex-wife. This shows, Kaplan said, that Carroll “was exactly his type.”
The jury again saw the “Access Hollywood” tape and heard Trump describe how he aggressively moves on women without their consent because they let you “when you’re a star.”
Trump revealed his “playbook” for handling women on the tape when he thought no one was listening, Kaplan said. “Telling you in his very own words how he treats women.”
According to Kaplan, Trump and his lawyers want the jury to believe Carroll and the other witnesses in her case are a part of a huge “hoax” to take down the former president. “The big lie,” Kaplan called it.
“There is only one person here who is lying and that person is Donald Trump,” Kaplan said.
In order to side with Trump’s defense, “You’d need to conclude that Donald Trump, the nonstop liar, is the only person in this room telling the truth.”
Carroll’s attorney also showed the jury a chart mapping how allegations from Carroll, Jessica Leeds and Natasha Stoynoff reveal a pattern of aggressive behavior. In each woman’s testimony at trial they described how Trump first engaged them in a semipublic place, then allegedly grabbed them suddenly, then later denied the allegations and said “she is too ugly for anyone to assault,” Kaplan said.
Trump has denied all the allegations against him.
“Three different women decades apart but one single pattern of behavior. What happened to Ms. Carroll is not unique in that respect, Trump’s physical attacks and verbal attacks are his standard operational procedure,” Kaplan said.
What the jury will have to decide was laid out by the judge at the beginning of the trial.
[Judge Lewis] Kaplan instructed the nine jurors at the trial’s start that the central claim pertains to “battery.”
He said that in a civil case, battery can result from even the slightest unlawful touching of another person.
“The law does not draw a line between different degrees of violence. It totally prohibits all unconsented-to touching from the least to the most violent that a reasonable person would find offensive. In other words, anything from a gentle but unwanted peck on the cheek to stabbing somebody with a knife could be battery for purposes of a civil case like this one,” Kaplan said.
The jurors will be asked to decide whether Carroll has proven that Trump committed battery. If they decide that Trump committed battery, they are expected to be asked to what degree. After that, Carroll’s attorney has proposed that jurors be asked separately whether Carroll has proven that Trump engaged in forcible touching, sexual abuse and rape. The judge has yet to make a decision on that proposal.
The trial also involves a claim by Carroll that Trump made defamatory comments while denying her allegations.
For defamation, jurors will be asked if Carroll had proven that Trump’s statement was defamatory and whether clear and convincing evidence had proven that Trump made the statement maliciously.
Trump’s lawyers focused their efforts on discrediting Carroll and the other women. They must be hoping that jurors will be reluctant to find a former president guilty of such awful actions. That gamble may well pay off because many people people in the US have an absurdly high level of respect for the presidency that borders on veneration, even if they do not care much for the person who is president. They may feel that finding him guilty somehow cheapens the office.
Against that is the fact adjudicating cases like this hinges on the credibility of the two sides. In this case, you have the testimony of five elderly, ordinary, women who have not been shown to be liars who are being accused by Trump’s lawyer of colluding to lie, set against a man who is notorious for lying pretty much every time he opens his damn mouth.
Pierce R. Butler says
Apparently, at least one of the nine members of the jury claimed to get most of his news from a Trumpista podcaster, so we may face significant risk of a hung jury.
The “person who is president” is Biden. This is a twice-impeached has-been, isn’t it? Veneration? (Note: twice-impeached has-been that he is, he remains the biggest threat to Biden’s continued presidency right now…)
Pierce R. Butler says
Happy to have been proven wrong @ my # 1:
Can he appeal ? I hope not. He’s been abusing women for decades . Mr Not-My-President should NEVER be allowed to run again !
He can appeal, because anyone can appeal. I don’t fancy his chances, though.
Also, this is a civil trial, not a criminal one. The level required for conviction is ‘preponderance of evidence’, not ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’. That means that hung juries are a lot less of a thing in a civil trial. In a criminal trial you can claim that one holdout indicates it is not ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’, but in a civil trial a single juror can argue his case but not necessarily hold things up indefinitely.