Attorney Accuses Judge in Trump Defamation Trial of Threatening Jail Time: ‘I Completely Disagree’

New York City – Alina Habba, the defense attorney in the recent defamation trial involving former President Donald Trump, has criticized Judge Lewis Kaplan for threatening to imprison her. Habba voiced her concerns during an appearance on Newsmax, stating that she disagreed with the judge’s ruling on an evidentiary issue and was subsequently threatened with incarceration. The dispute arose when Habba sought to present a PowerPoint slide as evidence, which she believed would support their case against Elle columnist E. Jean Carroll.

According to Habba, Judge Kaplan disallowed the use of the slide and dismissed her objections, warning that she would be sent to jail if she persisted. The trial resulted in Trump being ordered to pay $83.3 million in damages to Carroll for statements made in 2019, relating to allegations of sexual assault. In a previous defamation trial in May 2023, a jury found Trump guilty of sexual assault and awarded Carroll $5 million. In the recent trial, Judge Kaplan imposed restrictions on the topics Trump could discuss in court, including Carroll’s past relationships and any implication that he did not sexually abuse her. Trump has consistently denied the allegations and indicated his intention to appeal both verdicts.

During her interview on Newsmax, Habba also criticized Judge Kaplan for prohibiting the jury from viewing video footage and tweets that she believed would substantiate their case. Habba expressed concern that the judge’s actions could influence the jury’s perception of the trial, as they were not able to access the internet and thus rely solely on the judge’s guidance.

When asked for comment, Habba’s office and a media representative did not respond to inquiries made by Newsweek outside of regular office hours. The tension between Habba and Judge Kaplan became apparent when he threatened her with imprisonment after she contested his ruling to exclude a specific slide from her closing argument.

Notably, legal experts expressed criticism of Habba’s performance throughout the trial. On one occasion, when Judge Kaplan rejected several pre-trial requests from Trump and his legal team, Habba was caught on record saying, “I don’t know how to try this case, Your Honor.”

Following the jury’s decision, Trump announced on his Truth Social media platform that he was in the process of interviewing various law firms to handle the expected appeal, suggesting a possible replacement for Habba as his counsel. Trump characterized the trial as a “ridiculous and unfair witch hunt” presided over by Judge Kaplan, whom he accused of being highly partisan and biased against him.

It is common for lawyers to be replaced during the appeals process, and Gene Rossi, a former Department of Justice litigator, acknowledged the challenges faced by Habba due to her high-profile client and the intense scrutiny surrounding her every move. However, Rossi also noted her apparent lack of comfort with the rules of evidence and her struggles in managing a demanding jurist.

This trial has attracted significant attention due to its prominent figures and controversial nature. As the legal battle continues, it remains to be seen how the appeal process will unfold and whether Trump will secure different legal representation.