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Trump settles lawsuit with protesters who allege his security guards assaulted them

The case was settled in the middle of jury selection. Terms weren’t disclosed.
Donald Trump sings RNC Loyalty Pledge, New York, United States - 03 Sep 2015
Keith Schiller, right, looks on as another man grapples with demonstrator Efrain Galicia outside Trump Tower on Sept. 3, 2015.John Angelillo / UPI / Shutterstock

Former President Donald Trump reached a settlement Wednesday with a group of protesters who alleged in a lawsuit that his security guards assaulted them outside Trump Tower in 2015, lawyers for both sides said.

The attorneys didn’t disclose details of the terms of the settlement, which came as the case was in the middle of jury selection. 

An attorney for the protesters, Benjamin Dictor, called it "an incredible day for our clients, who are lifelong activists in the community … who stood up to defend the right to speech on the public sidewalk and have litigated for seven years."

"And today, the matter was resolved on terms that they are very, very happy with," he said.

In a joint statement provided by Dictor and signed by the plaintiffs and Trump’s attorney, Alina Habba, the parties agreed they have settled the case and will dismiss it. They also agreed "that the plaintiffs in the action, and all people, have a right to engage in peaceful protest on public sidewalks," the statement said. 

Habba said in a separate statement: “Although we were eager to proceed to trial to demonstrate the frivolousness of this case, the parties were ultimately able to come to an amicable resolution. We are very pleased with this outcome and are happy to finally put this matter to rest once and for all.”

The suit stems from an incident in September 2015, when a group protesting Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants when he was a candidate for president allege Trump’s security guards assaulted them on the sidewalk outside Trump’s Fifth Avenue building. The suit claims Trump’s head of security punched one of the protesters in the head as he tried to wrest away his “Make America racist again” sign.

The protesters sued Trump, his company, his campaign and the guards, alleging they had disrupted their “peaceful and lawful assembly.”

In a February 2016 affidavit, Trump said he shouldn’t have to be deposed because he didn’t know anything about the skirmish and hadn’t been involved in hiring security.

“Given the breadth and scope of the business, I have delegated full responsibility and authority for the hiring and supervision of all security personnel and related security operations to Matthew Calamari,” the Trump Organization’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, Trump said.

Attorneys for the protesters contended that Trump was responsible for his employees’ actions, and the judge ordered him to sit for a deposition, saying his testimony was “indispensable.”

Trump sat for a videotaped deposition in October of last year, which was to have been used as his trial testimony. In the deposition, parts of which were made public in a court filing, Trump said he “didn’t know about” the altercation between the protesters and his then-bodyguard Keith Schiller until the next day.

Trump defended Schiller’s actions, according to the transcript.

“He did nothing wrong. He went out — I didn’t know about it. But he went out, he heard there was a disturbance, and he went out. And he took a 50 cent sign down that was racist. He sees people dressed as Ku Klux Klansmen or whatever. People were probably complaining,” Trump said.

Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen disputed Trump's contention that he was in the dark about what his security officers were doing in his own videotaped deposition in May. Cohen testified that he witnessed Trump directing Schiller to “get rid of” the protesters and that Schiller later returned to Trump’s office with a sign he had taken from them, court filings show. That testimony was also going to be played for the jury in the now-canceled trial.