Judge refuses to tell jury in Trump civil rape trial that former president is ‘excused’

April 24. 2023

The federal judge in the civil rape trial of Donald Trump said that the former president’s request for special jury instructions in the case is “premature” in a filing on Thursday, April 20, reports NBC News.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is presiding over the trial in Manhattan stemming from writer E. Jean Carroll’s lawsuit, responded a day after Trump’s lawyer sent him a letter indicating that Trump might take the witness stand in the trial—but saying would be too difficult for him to attend the entire trial for logistical reasons tied to his former office.

In his letter to the judge on Wednesday April 19, Trump’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, asked Kaplan to instruct 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.”

Kaplan responded that the court does not accept Trump’s counsel’s “claims concerning alleged burdens on the courthouse or the City” if Trump were to testify. He noted that Trump is under no legal obligation to be present or to testify and that Carroll’s counsel has signaled that she was not planning to call Trump as a witness.

Kaplan also cited Trump’s coming travel to a campaign event in New Hampshire on the third day of the scheduled trial while pointing out that he is entitled by law as a former president to have Secret Service protection and that additional security measures can be provided, as well.

“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 wrote.

Kaplan also noted that Trump was notified of the April 25 start date on or about February 7—giving him “quite ample time within which to make whatever logistical arrangements should be made for his attendance.”

He said it’s “quite a bit more time” than Trump was given ahead of his recent historic indictment by a Manhattan grand jury in a case involving hush money payments made during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Kaplan concluded that Trump’s request for special jury instructions is “premature.”

“Mr. Trump is free to attend, to testify, or both. He is free also to do none of those things,” Kaplan wrote. “Should he elect not to appear or testify, his counsel may renew the request.”

Research contact: @NBCNews