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Judge in Donald Trump rape case warns against inciteful statements

former u.s. president donald trump indicted by a manhattan grand jury
Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., April 4: Former U.S. President Donald Trump walks on the day of his court appearance in New York after being indicted by a Manhattan grand jury following a probe into hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels

The judge in former President Donald Trump’s rape case ordered lawyers at the start of a civil trial on Tuesday to keep their clients and witnesses from making public statements that could lead to violence.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan admonished them before seating nine jurors who will weigh whether Trump raped former Elle magazine advice columnist E. Jean Carroll in a department store dressing room in the mid-1990s  and defamed her by denying it happened.

Opening statements were scheduled to begin later on Tuesday in Manhattan federal court. The trial is expected to last one to two weeks.

Trump has long inspired strong feelings from supporters and opponents across the political spectrum.

Before juror questioning began, Kaplan ordered Trump’s and Carroll’s lawyers to tell their clients and witnesses not to make statements that could “incite violence or civil unrest.”

Trump, 76, called Carroll’s rape claim a “hoax” and “complete Scam” in a October 2022 post on his Truth Social platform. He also said she made up the encounter to promote her memoir and declared that she was “not my type!”

Carroll, 79, is seeking unspecified damages for what she calls significant pain and suffering, lasting psychological harm, and invasion of privacy.

She invoked a new state law in New York giving adult sexual abuse victims a one-year window to sue their alleged attackers, even if statutes of limitations have long since expired.

Carroll’s case is among a slew of lawsuits and probes facing Trump, the Republican front-runner in the 2024 presidential race. It could be politically damaging as witnesses discuss Trump’s alleged sexual misconduct, all of which he denies.

The trial began the same day President Joe Biden, a Democrat, said he would seek a second White House term.

Trump was not in the courthouse and was not required to attend the trial. He was also unlikely to testify, according to lawyers from both sides.

Kaplan is keeping jurors anonymous from the public and the lawyers, to shield them from potential harassment by Trump supporters.

He even suggested that jurors not use their real names when speaking with one another.

“If you’re normally a Bill and you’re selected for the jury or even before, you can be John for a couple of days,” he told the panel.

The judge dismissed several prospective jurors who said they could not judge the case fairly.

He asked many questions to gauge bias.

These included whether prospective jurors agreed with Trump that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, or thought the #MeToo movement – which Carroll has said inspired her to come forward – would undercut their impartiality. None said they did.

The former president has repeatedly attacked Carroll and in personal terms, once calling her mentally ill, since she first publicly accused him of rape in June 2019.

Carroll said her encounter with Trump at the Bergdorf Goodman store occurred in late 1995 or early 1996.

She said Trump recognized her, calling her “that advice lady,” and asked for help in buying a gift for another woman.

Carroll said Trump then “maneuvered” her into a dressing room where he shut the door, forced her against a wall, pulled down her tights and penetrated her. She said she broke free after two to three minutes.

Jurors were expected to hear a 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape on which Trump made graphic, vulgar comments about women.

Trump’s lawyers may try to undermine Carroll’s credibility by noting that she did not call the police, remained publicly silent for more than two decades, and cannot remember the date or even the month of the alleged attack.

Other legal matters Trump faces include Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s criminal charges over hush money payments to a porn star.

Trump pleaded not guilty to those charges on April 4 at a New York state courthouse, a three-minute walk from Tuesday’s trial.

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