NEW YORK — A lawyer for Donald Trump signaled Wednesday that the former president is unlikely to attend a civil trial next week in which a columnist has accused him of raping her in a department store dressing room in the 1990s.
Attorney Joe Tacopina asked the judge who will preside over the trial starting Tuesday if he would tell jurors that Trump’s absence was designed to avoid logistical burdens that New York City and the court system would face if Trump were present.
Tacopina did not rule out that Trump could still attend the trial, saying jurors should be told that his “presence is excused unless and until he is called by either party to testify.”
Judge Lewis A. Kaplan had instructed attorneys to say by Thursday whether their clients will appear for all or a portion of the trial.
E. Jean Carroll, who for the first time publicly revealed the rape claims in a 2019 memoir, has said through her lawyers that she will attend the entire trial.
Trump has repeatedly insisted he never met Carroll at the store and that he didn’t know who she was.
Tacopina said in a letter to Kaplan that Trump “wishes to appear at trial,” but jurors should be told that while no litigant is required to appear for 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.”
Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, mocked the request that jurors should be told Trump is not attending the trial “as some sort of favor to the City of New York.”
She noted that New York City and the Manhattan federal courts have hosted major trials, including some pertaining to notorious terrorists, without incident. And she said she won’t be calling Trump to the stand to testify as a witness because she can rely on showing jurors portions of his four-hour videotaped deposition.
“If Mr. Trump decides not to appear at his own trial for sexual assault and defamation, the jury may draw whatever inferences it chooses,” wrote the lawyer, who is not related to the judge.
She added that it was difficult to credit his arguments in light of his recent travel schedule.
“If Mr. Trump can find a way to attend wrestling championships, political conventions, civil depositions, and campaign functions, then surely he could surmount the logistics of attending his own federal trial,” she said.
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