IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Judge in civil rape case against Trump will use anonymous jury, citing risk of juror harassment

The judge noted in his decision that Trump has a history of criticizing jurors and the legal system.
Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Manchester, N.H.
Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Manchester, N.H., on Aug. 25, 2016. Gerald Herbert / AP file

The federal judge presiding over E. Jean Carroll's civil rape and defamation lawsuit against former President Donald Trump ruled Thursday he'll use an anonymous jury in the case, noting Trump's inflammatory rhetoric about the justice system.

"It bears mention that Mr. Trump repeatedly has attacked courts, judges, various law enforcement officials and other public officials, and even individual jurors in other matters,” U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan of New York said in his decision.

He also said he'll refuse to allow jurors' names to become public, adding, "If jurors’ identities were disclosed, there would be a strong likelihood of unwanted media attention to the jurors, influence attempts, and/or of harassment or worse of jurors by supporters of Mr. Trump."

Trump lawyer Alina Habba said in a statement that Trump’s side has no issue with an anonymous jury.

“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,” Habba said.

Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, declined to comment through a spokesperson. 

Carroll's lawsuit alleges that Trump raped her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s and that he has since defamed her by calling her allegations a "hoax." Trump maintains her allegations are made up. The case is set to go to trial in federal court in Manhattan on April 25.

Kaplan, the judge, brought up the idea of using an anonymous jury this month, and lawyers for Carroll and Trump did not object to the suggestion.

Attorneys for the New York Daily News and The Associated Press filed a motion objecting to the proposal, noting that there is a "presumptive right of access by the public to civil proceedings," including jurors’ names.

Kaplan recognized that argument but said the current case was "unique," noting it involved a former president who "has inspired strong opinions, both highly favorable and highly unfavorable."

He said Trump has been accused by protesters and a House committee of inciting violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. He also pointed to the concerns of some that he was doing the same with his call to "protest" and "take our country back" over the weekend because of what he "perceived as an imminent threat of indictment by a grand jury sitting virtually next door to this Court."

Kaplan stressed that he wasn't making any finding about the accuracy of those allegations, but he said he was concerned about jurors' perceptions.

"For purposes of this order, it matters not whether Mr. Trump incited violence in either a legal or a factual sense. The point is whether jurors will perceive themselves to be at risk," he wrote, adding that he can't ignore the "significant risk" of unwanted media attention or retaliation and harassment facing jurors from people who don't agree with the eventual verdict.

Among the measures Kaplan said he'd have in place are barring prospective jurors' names, addresses and workplaces from being mentioned during jury selection and ordering lunch to be brought to the jurors inside the courthouse. He also said the jurors must be transported in groups daily to and from the courthouse from undisclosed locations.