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Federal Judge Rules Trump Can’t Claim ‘Burdens’ For Skipping Sexual Assault Trial in NYC

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


The federal judge overseeing a sexual assault case against former President Donald Trump has issued a ruling that is favorable to him, but it came with a catch.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan ruled on Thursday that the former president is not obligated to attend the trial, but he cannot use the excuse of avoiding placing any “burdens” on the city as a reason for his absence, the New York Post reported.

Kaplan’s decision was made in response to a request from Trump’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, who had asked that the jurors be informed that Trump’s absence was due to his desire to avoid “logistical burdens.”

The Post noted that proposed jury instructions submitted a day earlier by Tacopina requested that the judge tell jurors: “While no litigant is required to appear at a civil trial, the absence of the defendant in this matter, by design, avoids the logistical burdens that his presence, as the former president, would cause the courthouse and New York City.”

“Accordingly, his presence is excused unless and until he is called by either party to testify,” the request noted further.

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But Kaplan, a Clinton appointee, ordered that for now at least, Trump’s legal team cannot use the argument of potential “burdens” if the former president decides not to attend the trial.

“Mr. Trump is free to attend, to testify, or both. He is free also to do none of those things,” Kaplan wrote in the one-page order.

“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 or the City of New York,” his order noted further.

Trump is scheduled to face trial in the Manhattan federal court over accusations of raping advice columnist E. Jean Carroll in the dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman department store during the 1990s, The Post noted.

Carroll has also claimed that Trump defamed her by making public statements about the allegations, which were initially disclosed in a 2019 book excerpt from New York Magazine.

Trump has denied the allegations.

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Last week, Trump, through his attorneys, requested a trial postponement in the defamation and battery case, citing the intense media coverage of his indictment in Manhattan last month and the need for a “cooling off” period.

Trump sought a one-month delay of the trial, which is set to start on April 25, but Kaplan, a senior judge in the Southern District of New York who was appointed in 1994, denied the request, stating, “There is no justification for an adjournment. This case is entirely unrelated to the state prosecution.”

“Developments in at least one of these matters, as well as actions and statements by Mr. Trump in relation to any, may well give rise to intense publicity that, in some respects, Mr. Trump might claim to be prejudicial in this case,” Kaplan noted. “Mr. Trump’s suggestion that a one-month trial postponement, in this case, would ensure the absence of any such developments in the period immediately preceding jury selection is not realistic.”

Earlier this month, it was revealed that LinkedIn founder and Democratic mega-donor Reid Hoffman was secretly funding Carroll’s lawsuit against Trump.

According to court records filed on Thursday, Reid Hoffman, the billionaire who co-founded LinkedIn and is now a major donor to the Democratic Party, has been secretly funding E. Jean Carroll’s rape case, the Daily Beast reported.

The latest revelations were disclosed during a heated correspondence between lawyers representing Carroll and Trump, who are currently fighting over whether to postpone the trial scheduled to begin in two weeks.

It is uncertain if Hoffman’s financial support will have any bearing on the outcome of the case, but the revelation of the previously undisclosed funding is likely to fuel Trump’s ongoing claims that wealthy Democrats are working behind the scenes to undermine him, the outlet noted further.

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