A Manhattan judge ruled Thursday that jurors hearing a trial next month involving a rape allegation against former President Donald Trump will be kept anonymous because of concern they could become victims of “harassment or worse” by Trump’s supporters.
The judge, Lewis A. Kaplan of U.S. District Court, issued his ruling in a lawsuit filed by E. Jean Carroll, a writer who has accused Trump of raping her in a dressing room at luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman in the mid-1990s.
Trump has denied the allegation, saying Carroll was “totally lying,” and that he had never met her. He also claimed he could not have raped her because she was not his “type.”
Kaplan, in ordering an anonymous jury and other steps to protect jurors from outside pressure, cited Trump’s calls last week for “protest” and for people to “take our nation back” after news reports indicated that his indictment was imminent in an investigation by the Manhattan district attorney into the role Trump played in a hush-money payment to a porn star.
“That reaction reportedly has been perceived by some as incitement to violence,” Kaplan wrote. He noted Trump had repeatedly attacked courts, judges, law enforcement officials and even individual jurors in other matters. He cited, for example, Trump’s critical statements on social media about the forewoman of a special grand jury in Atlanta, Georgia, where the former president has faced an investigation into possible election interference.
Kaplan said he could not ignore the “significant risk” that jurors in Carroll’s 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.”
Alina Habba, a lawyer for Trump, said of the ruling: “Given the high-profile nature of this case, we don’t want jurors to feel any outside pressure or influence. Anonymity will help ensure that their decision is based solely on the facts presented to them. As we will demonstrate at trial, these facts irrefutably vindicate President Trump.”
Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, had no comment.
Neither Trump nor Carroll objected when the judge recently raised the prospect of an anonymous jury.
Carroll, whose case is scheduled for trial on April 25, brought her suit last year under a 2022 New York law that gives adults who claim they were sexually assaulted a one-time window to sue their abusers, even if the statute of limitations has expired.
In his opinion, the judge noted anonymous juries historically have been ordered in criminal cases, most often involving terrorism and organized crime, in which “the risk of tampering with or violent retaliation against jurors by criminal defendants or their confederates was palpable.”
The Daily News and The Associated Press filed a joint letter opposing an anonymous jury in Carroll’s case on First Amendment grounds.
But the judge said the anonymity was necessary, given the “unprecedented circumstances,” including extensive news coverage and “a very strong risk that jurors will fear harassment, unwarranted invasions of their privacy and retaliation.”
In other measures ordered by the judge, jurors would assemble and disperse from undisclosed locations each day, where they would be taken to and from the courthouse. Federal marshals would take them to lunch as a group.