New York judge: Defamation trial against Trump to start next week

Judge rejects request to delay trial tied to rape allegation by E Jean Carroll against former US President Donald Trump.

E Jean Carroll entering a courthouse in March 2020.
Journalist E Jean Carroll waits to enter a courtroom in 2020 in New York City in the United States [Seth Wenig/The Associated Press]

A judge in New York has said that a civil battery and defamation trial against former US President Donald Trump will begin next week as scheduled, rejecting a request from Trump to delay the proceedings.

The decision on Monday came after Trump’s lawyers last week had asked United States District Judge Lewis Kaplan to grant a four-week “cooling-off” period until at least May 23 to give Trump a fair trial.

They cited a recent “deluge of prejudicial media coverage” surrounding his recent arraignment on New York criminal charges of falsifying business records, making him the first US president to face criminal prosecution.

That criminal case is separate from the civil battery and defamation case, which was brought by former Elle magazine columnist E Jean Carroll in November 2022. She filed the lawsuit following the passage of a New York state law that allows an individual to bring civil claims against an alleged rapist after the criminal statute of limitations has expired.

In a written order on Monday, Kaplan said Carroll’s case was “entirely unrelated” to the New York state-level criminal prosecution.

Kaplan said there was no reason to assume it would be easier to seat a fair and impartial jury in May. He said some media coverage was based on Trump’s own public statements.

“It does not sit well for Mr Trump to promote pretrial publicity and then to claim that coverage that he promoted was prejudicial to him,” Kaplan wrote.

The trial next week is to determine if Trump defamed Carroll in denying her claim that he raped her in late 1995 or early 1996. A separate defamation lawsuit filed by Carroll in 2019 has been indefinitely put on hold by the judge.

Carroll described the incident in a June 2019 New York Magazine excerpt from her memoir, saying it occurred in the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan.

She has said Trump asked her for help in buying a gift for another woman, but later “maneuvered” her into a dressing room, where he sexually assaulted her.

Trump responded to the allegation saying that “she’s not my type” and accusing Carroll of fabricating the rape claim to sell books.

The defamation case is among several legal woes the former president currently faces.

In the New York criminal case, he has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records in connection with a hush-money payment made to a porn star before the 2016 election. The case alleges that Trump committed the falsification in service to a secondary crime, raising it to a misdemeanor.

In another New York civil lawsuit, New York Attorney General Letitia James has accused Trump and his family of committing fraud by overvaluing assets to lenders and insurers. The fraudulent statements were allegedly provided by the Trump Organization.

In the state of Georgia, Trump faces another criminal inquiry into whether he broke state law when he pressured a local election official to “find” votes in the wake of his 2020 election loss. A decision on whether to indict Trump is expected in the coming weeks.

On the federal level, Trump faces an inquiry after about 100 documents marked “classified” were found at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida after he left the White House. A special counsel has been appointed by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to conduct the investigation.

Meanwhile, in December, a congressional panel referred Trump to the DOJ for possible crimes connected to the January 6, 2021 storming of the US capitol by supporters of the former president.

The same special counsel in the documents case is also leading a separate probe into Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies