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Judge, citing Trump's 'repeated public statements,' orders anonymous jury in defamation suit trial

Former President Donald Trump gestures as he gives remarks during a campaign event held at Trendsetter Engineering, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

NEW YORK (AP) — A New York federal judge cited former President Donald Trump’s “repeated public statements” Friday among reasons why a jury will be anonymous when it considers damages stemming from a defamation lawsuit by a writer who says Trump sexually abused her in the 1990s.

Judge Lewis A. Kaplan issued an order establishing that the jury to be chosen for the January trial in Manhattan will be transported by the U.S. Marshals Service.

“In view of Mr. Trump’s repeated public statements with respect to the plaintiff and court in this case as well as in other cases against him, and the extensive media coverage that this case already has received and that is likely to increase once the trial is imminent or underway, the Court finds that there is strong reason to believe the jury requires the protections” anonymity provides, Kaplan wrote in an order.

Lawyers for Trump did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Another jury that was also anonymous in May awarded $5 million in damages to columnist E. Jean Carroll, 79, after finding that Trump sexually abused her in 1996 in the dressing room of a luxury department store and defamed her with comments he made in the fall of 2022 that disparaged her claims. The jury rejected Carroll's claim that Trump raped her. Kaplan presided over that trial as well.

The Jan. 15 trial stems from a lawsuit first filed in 2019 in response to comments Trump made after she wrote in a memoir that Trump attacked her after their chance late-day encounter in a midtown Manhattan store near Trump Tower, where Trump resided. The progression of the lawsuit was slowed by appeals. A federal appeals court has yet to rule on Trump's claim that absolute presidential immunity protects him from the lawsuit.

After the May verdict, Kaplan ruled that Carroll's lawyers will not have to re-establish to a new jury that Trump sexually attacked Carroll. Instead, they'll be left to decide what damages, if any, he should face for his remarks.

That lawsuit has been updated by Carroll's lawyers to include remarks Trump made on a televised town hall a day after the verdict. Carroll seeks at least $10 million in compensatory damages and substantially more in punitive damages.

A week ago, Trump, the leading candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, was fined $10,000 by a New York state judge for violating a gag order prohibiting him from attacking court personnel in a civil fraud case.

The state judge, Arthur Engoron, required Trump to sit in a witness box and answer questions. Trump denied he was referring to a senior law clerk when he told reporters outside court that someone “sitting alongside” Engoron was “perhaps even much more partisan than he is.”

After Trump, 77, testified, the judge said: “I find that the witness is not credible.”

Engoron, who had earlier fined Trump $5,000 for violating the same gag order after the judge found that he had targeted his principal law clerk on social media, even suggested the possibility of holding Trump “in contempt of court, and possibly imprisoning him” for further violations.

Trump also faces four criminal indictments. He has pleaded not guilty in two cases accusing him of seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, along with a classified documents case and charges that he helped arrange a payoff to porn actor Stormy Daniels to silence her before the 2016 presidential election.