“Stable genius-level strategy”: Trump lawyer demands mistrial by calling judge "unfair"

Legal experts warned Joe Tacopina's handling of the trial could backfire on his client

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published May 1, 2023 8:49AM (EDT)

Former President Donald Trump disembarks his plane on May 1, 2023 in Aberdeen, Scotland.  (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump disembarks his plane on May 1, 2023 in Aberdeen, Scotland. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump's legal team requested a mistrial early Monday morning in the rape and defamation lawsuit against him.

Trump attorney Joe Tacopina sent a letter to Judge Lewis Kaplan shortly before the cross-examination of E. Jean Carroll resumed in Manhattan federal court on Monday asking the court to grant a mistrial over the judge's "unfair and prejudicial rulings."

Tacopina listed a litany of complaints about the trial so far, arguing that Kaplan had "mischaracterized the evidence in favor" of Carroll and "bolstered" her testimony.

The attorney complained that the judge had allowed Carroll to testify that Trump "has two tables of lawyers at trial" while barring Trump's legal team from "fairly clarifying the record" by showing that Carroll "has a comparable amount of lawyers." Tacopina also complained that the judge had "continuously sustained improper 'argumentative' objections" from Carroll's attorneys during her cross-examination.

The letter also argued that the judge should not have allowed the testimony of Natasha Stoynoff, who accused Trump of forcibly kissing her and is expected to appear as a witness at the trial.

The letter also complained that Kaplan "alluded" to potential legal ramifications in response to a social media post from Eric Trump "making completely truthful and non-prejudicial statements" about LinkedIn founder and Democratic donor Reid Hoffman's financing of Carroll's lawsuit — even though the judge ruled that the financing could not be discussed in the trial.

"Eric Trump's tweet was either factually accurate or protected opinion," Tacopina wrote.

Tacopina also argued that he should have been allowed to question Carroll about why she did not go to the police after the alleged rape and why she did not seek security camera footage from the store where it allegedly occurred.

"Proof that Plaintiff never attempted to determine if any such footage of the parties existed constitutes circumstantial evidence that her accusation is false," the letter said.

The letter asked Kaplan for a mistrial or to "correct the record for each and every instance in which the Court has mischaracterized the facts of this case to the jury" or to give Tacopina more leeway in questioning Carroll.

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It would be unusual for a judge to declare a mistrial based on their own statements in a trial.

"Attacking one of the best and smartest judges in the SDNY is such a stable-genius-level strategy," tweeted conservative attorney and frequent Trump critic George Conway.

Former U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance dismissed Tacopina's letter as "courtroom theater."

This "won't result in a mistrial," she predicted, but Trump's legal team may be "setting up an argument they'll make in appeal if the jury finds against Trump," she explained.

"Judges routinely give a 'clean up' instruction before a jury deliberates, telling them not to construe anything the court says as evidence, or as a suggestion of what their verdict should be," she tweeted. "The judge here is experienced & steady & unlikely to be thrown by Trump tactics."

Tacopina also drew criticism last week for aggressively questioning Carroll on the stand, which legal experts warned could backfire on his client.

"Of course, nobody can ever predict with certainty the outcome of a trial. But it seems that Trump's lawyer Tacopina is making the fatal mistake of arguing his case in a manner that makes his client happy, rather than trying to persuade a jury," tweeted Florida attorney Ron Filipkowski. "Not usually a winning formula."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aggregate Donald Trump E Jean Carroll Joe Tacopina Lewis Kaplan Politics