Trump Defamation Trial Delayed Again Amid Jury Covid Worries

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump’s expected testimony in E. Jean Carroll’s defamation trial against him has been delayed for a third time after a juror fell ill and the former president’s legal team reported Covid exposures at a recent dinner.

Most Read from Bloomberg

US District Judge Lewis Kaplan on Tuesday issued a brief order saying the trial won’t take place in Manhattan on Wednesday as planned, without giving a reason. He previously canceled the trial for Monday due to the illness concerns, then extended the delay through Tuesday without explanation.

Trump spent most of Tuesday campaigning ahead of New Hampshire’s closely watched primary vote. A win tonight would give Trump his second victory following the Iowa caucuses — a major step to wrapping up the nomination, even as he faces 91 felony counts in four criminal cases.

The only clues about the delays come from a brief hearing Monday, when the trial was initially called off for one day. Kaplan advised the parties and their lawyers that a juror had called to report that he was “feeling hot and nauseous” on his way to court. The juror was advised to return home and report back on the results of a Covid test, the judge said.

Kaplan then announced that Trump lawyer Alina Habba had also reported “that she was not feeling well.” The judge said Habba — who was seated next to Trump and not wearing a mask — had alerted the court that one or both of her parents tested positive for Covid, and that both she and Trump attorney Michael Madaio had had dinner with them three days earlier. Both lawyers took rapid tests before the hearing and tested negative, the judge said.

The judge called off the trial for one day, prompting Carroll’s attorney Roberta Kaplan to urge the judge to continue the trial without the sick juror. That’s when Habba spoke up to endorse the one-day delay, saying she had “exhibited a fever over the last 48 hours” herself and that her babysitter “is exhibiting symptoms.”

Not Prejudicial

“I don’t see the problem with a short delay for a day,” Habba said. “I don’t think it will prejudice anyone. At least we can get the juror’s Covid test as well, just so everybody is focused. I think it will be better. We have nine jurors. I would like to have the full panel, please.”

The judge set up a hot-line for jurors to report Covid issues. He said federal court administrators are “quite experienced” in handling necessary precautions, after conducting hundreds of jury trials since the start of the pandemic.

That’s when Habba spoke up again to request that the trial be called off on Tuesday as well, saying Trump had just reminded her that it was the New Hampshire primary. She said Trump wants to testify, but he “needs to be in New Hampshire” to campaign.

“Clearly, he flew in last night to be here,” Habba said. “I would just need his testimony to be Wednesday in light of the news about the juror today.”

Carroll’s lawyer balked, telling the judge that a one-day delay was more than enough. “Your Honor, we would again like to get this trial over,” she said. “There’s very short testimony from us left, and we just think we should finish tomorrow.”

Hours later, the judge called off the trial for Tuesday, but didn’t say why.

Monday was expected to be the final day of the defamation trial, with Carroll calling her last witnesses and Trump taking the stand. Carroll, who last year won a separate sexual-abuse trial against Trump, is seeking at least $12 million in compensation for damage to her reputation caused by his denials, plus unspecified punitive damages that can easily soar in such cases.

The judge in the Carroll case has already held Trump liable for defamation, leaving it to the jury to set damages.

(Updates with details on Covid concerns at hearing on Monday morning.)

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.