Juror Dismissed in Trump Hush Money Trial as Prosecutors Ask for Former President to Face Contempt

April 18, 2024by Michael R. Sisak, Jennifer Peltz, Eric Tucker and Jake Offenhartz, Associated Press
Juror Dismissed in Trump Hush Money Trial as Prosecutors Ask for Former President to Face Contempt
Former President Donald Trump addresses the media following the second day of jury selection, Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Manhattan criminal court in New York. (Justin Lane/Pool Photo via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — Prosecutors in the hush money trial of Donald Trump asked Thursday for the former president to be held in contempt and fined because of seven social media posts that they said violated a judge’s gag order barring him from attacking witnesses.

Meanwhile, the jury selection process took a step back when one of the seven jurors who had been picked, an oncology nurse, was dismissed after telling the court that she had become concerned about her ability to be impartial in the first-ever criminal case against a former president.

Although the jurors’ names are being kept confidential, the woman said her family members and friends questioned her about being a juror.

The dismissal leaves six on the panel so far, including a software engineer, an information technology professional, a sales professional, an English teacher and two lawyers.

Twelve more people must still be sworn in, with the judge saying he anticipated opening statements in the landmark case to be given as early as next week.

After dismissing the juror, Judge Juan Merchan ordered journalists in court not to report prospective jurors’ answers to questions about their current and former employers.

He said that “as evidenced by what’s happened already, it’s become a problem.” The answers also will be redacted from court transcripts.

Prosecutors had asked that the employer inquiries be axed from the jury questionnaire. Defense lawyer Todd Blanche responded that “depriving us of the information because of what the press is doing isn’t the answer.”

The judge said he agreed “that that information is necessary.”

The social media posts at issue were made by Trump since Monday, when prosecutors first sought a $3,000 fine for Trump for three Truth Social posts they said violated the order.

Prosecutor Christopher Conroy said several of the posts involved an article that referred to former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen as a “serial perjurer,” and one from Wednesday that repeated a claim by a Fox News host that liberal activists were lying to get on the jury.

Trump lawyer Emil Bove said Cohen “has been attacking President Trump in public statements,” and Trump was just replying.

The judge had already scheduled a hearing for next week on the prosecution’s request for contempt sanctions over Trump’s posts.

The seating of the Manhattan jury — whenever it comes — will be a seminal moment in the case, setting the stage for a trial that will place the former president’s legal jeopardy at the heart of the campaign against Democrat Joe Biden and feature potentially unflattering testimony about Trump’s private life in the years before he became president.

The process of picking a jury is a critical phase of any criminal trial but especially so when the defendant is a former president and the presumptive Republican nominee.

Prospective jurors have been grilled on their social media posts, personal lives and political views as the lawyers and judge search for biases that would prevent them from being impartial.

Inside the court, there’s broad acknowledgment of the futility in trying to find jurors without knowledge of Trump, with a prosecutor this week saying that lawyers were not looking for people who had been “living under a rock for the past eight years.”

To that end, at least some of the jurors selected acknowledged having their own opinions about Trump.

“I find him fascinating and mysterious,” one juror selected for the case, an IT professional, said under questioning. “He walks into a room and he sets people off, one way or the other. I find that really interesting. ‘Really? This one guy could do all of this? Wow.’ That’s what I think.”

The process has moved swifter than expected, prompting Trump when leaving the courthouse on Tuesday to complain to reporters that the judge, Juan Merchan, was “rushing” the trial.

The case centers on a $130,000 payment that Trump’s lawyer and personal fixer, Michael Cohen, made shortly before the 2016 election to porn actor Stormy Daniels to prevent her claims of a sexual encounter with Trump from becoming public in the race’s final days.

Prosecutors say Trump obscured the true nature of the payments in internal records when his company reimbursed Cohen, who pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2018 and is expected to be a star witness for the prosecution.

Trump has denied having a sexual encounter with Daniels, and his lawyers argue the payments to Cohen were legitimate legal expenses.

Trump faces 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. He could face up to four years in prison if convicted, though it’s not clear that the judge would opt to put him behind bars. Trump would almost certainly appeal any conviction.

The hush money case is one of four criminal prosecutions Trump is confronting as he vies to reclaim the White House, but it’s possible that it will be the sole case to reach trial before November’s presidential election. Appeals and other legal wrangling have caused delays in cases charging Trump with plotting to overturn the 2020 election results and with illegally hoarding classified documents.

___

Tucker reported from Washington.

A+
a-
  • Donad Trump
  • hush money
  • In The News

    Health

    Voting

    Courts

    Virginia Judge to Decide Whether State Law Considers Embryos as Property

    FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — A trial is underway in Virginia that will determine whether state law allows frozen embryos to... Read More

    FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — A trial is underway in Virginia that will determine whether state law allows frozen embryos to be considered property that can be divided up and assigned a monetary value. Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Dontae Bugg heard arguments Thursday from a divorced... Read More

    How a Texas Man is Testing Out-of-State Abortions by Asking a Court to Subpoena His Ex-Partner

    AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas man is petitioning a court to authorize an obscure legal action to find out... Read More

    AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas man is petitioning a court to authorize an obscure legal action to find out who allegedly helped his former partner obtain an out-of-state abortion, setting up the latest test of the reach of statewide abortion bans. As some states work to... Read More

    Some North Carolina Abortion Pill Restrictions Are Unlawful, Federal Judge Says

    RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Some of North Carolina government's restrictions on dispensing abortion pills, such as requiring that doctors to... Read More

    RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Some of North Carolina government's restrictions on dispensing abortion pills, such as requiring that doctors to prescribe and provide the drug to the patient in person, are unlawful because they frustrate the goal of Congress to use federal regulators to ensure the... Read More

    Juror Dismissed in Trump Hush Money Trial as Prosecutors Ask for Former President to Face Contempt

    NEW YORK (AP) — Prosecutors in the hush money trial of Donald Trump asked Thursday for the former president to be held... Read More

    NEW YORK (AP) — Prosecutors in the hush money trial of Donald Trump asked Thursday for the former president to be held in contempt and fined because of seven social media posts that they said violated a judge's gag order barring him from attacking witnesses. Meanwhile, the jury... Read More

    Trump Arrives at Court for Start of Jury Selection in His Historic Hush Money Trial

    NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump arrived Monday at a New York court for the start of jury selection in his hush... Read More

    NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump arrived Monday at a New York court for the start of jury selection in his hush money trial, marking a singular moment in U.S. history. It’s the first criminal trial of any former U.S. commander-in-chief and the first of Trump’s four indictments... Read More

    Former Trump Executive Allen Weisselberg Sentenced to Five Months in Jail for Lying in Civil Fraud Case

    NEW YORK (AP) — Allen Weisselberg, a retired executive in Donald Trump’s real estate empire, was sentenced on Wednesday to... Read More

    NEW YORK (AP) — Allen Weisselberg, a retired executive in Donald Trump’s real estate empire, was sentenced on Wednesday to five months in jail for lying under oath during his testimony in the civil fraud lawsuit brought against the former president by New York’s attorney general. Weisselberg, 76,... Read More

    News From The Well
    scroll top