By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge said Donald Trump will face an anonymous jury as it decides how much he should pay E. Jean Carroll for defaming the writer in 2019 by denying that he raped her.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan said he found "strong reason" to provide special protections for jurors at the scheduled Jan. 16, 2024 civil trial.
He cited the former U.S. president's repeated public criticisms of Carroll and the "extensive media coverage" of her case.
Kaplan also pointed to Trump's conduct in New York Attorney General Letitia James' civil fraud lawsuit against him, where the presiding judge has fined Trump twice for violating a gag order with comments about his clerk.
If juror identities were disclosed, "there would be a strong likelihood of unwanted media attention to the jurors, influence attempts, and/or harassment or worse by supporters of Mr. Trump [and/or by Mr. Trump himself]," Kaplan wrote.
Kaplan said the names, addresses and places of employment of prospective jurors will be kept secret.
Jurors will also be transported together to and from the courthouse and be looked after by U.S. marshals during breaks in the trial.
Neither Carroll, a former Elle magazine columnist, nor Trump, nor anyone else objected to using an anonymous jury, the judge said.
In a lawsuit that began in November 2019, Carroll is seeking at least $10 million over comments Trump made in the White House after she first publicly accused him of raping her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the mid-1990s.
Trump denied knowing Carroll, said she was not his "type," and said she made up the claim to promote her upcoming memoir.
Another anonymous jury in May ordered Trump to pay Carroll $5 million for sexual assault and defamation in a second lawsuit, after Trump again denied her claims in October 2022.
Trump is appealing that verdict. Both sides are awaiting a decision by the federal appeals court in Manhattan on whether absolute presidential immunity shields Trump from Carroll's first lawsuit.
In September, Kaplan ruled that the jury's defamation findings in May applied to Carroll's first lawsuit, leaving for trial only the issue of damages.
Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the 2024 U.S. election despite facing four federal and state criminal indictments. He has pleaded not guilty in those cases.
The case is Carroll v. Trump, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 20-07311.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Rod Nickel)