Trump weighs bid to shift NY criminal case to Staten Island

Erik Larson, Bloomberg News on

Published in Political News

NEW YORK — Former President Donald Trump’s legal team is considering asking to move his criminal case from Manhattan to the more conservative New York borough of Staten Island out of concern that he won’t be able to get a fair trial, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The lawyers haven’t made a final decision and are waiting to see the charges in the indictment by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the discussions aren’t public.

The indictment will be unsealed Tuesday when Trump is expected to appear in court to be arraigned and enter a plea of not guilty to charges stemming from a hush-money payment to a porn star before the 2016 election. Trump denies wrongdoing and says the case is part of a politically motivated “witch hunt.”

Jennifer Rodgers, a former federal prosecutor, said any attempt to move the venue is likely to fail because defendants aren’t entitled to seek out juries based on specific characteristics they find more favorable, including political views.

“The only reason he would try to move venue to Staten Island is that he thinks — based on voter registration — that that’s a friendlier potential jury pool for him,” Rodgers said. “That’s not going to fly.”

While President Joe Biden overwhelmingly won Manhattan in the 2020 election, Trump took Staten Island with a 57% share of the vote. He entered the 2024 presidential race in November.

Trump, who has issued statements attacking Bragg and the judge overseeing the case, is at risk of alienating potential jurors through his own behavior, said New York criminal defense attorney Michael Bachner, a former prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

‘Stop talking’

“I’ve represented a bunch of celebrities and the hardest part of representing them is convincing them to just stop talking,” Bachner said. “He’ll get a fair trial, but if you start saying things that are all of a sudden going to cause jurors to be concerned, and are prejudicial to the system, it’s problematic.”


Last month, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled that Trump’s history of inflammatory remarks about the judges and jurors in past cases warranted the use of a rare anonymous jury in the trial of civil sexual-assault claims brought against the former president by New York author E. Jean Carroll. That case is set for trial starting April 25.

Former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade, now at the University of Michigan’s law school, said the usual reason for asking a judge to move a trial is evidence that it’s “impossible” to find 12 impartial jurors. But finding fair jurors is possible even in Manhattan, where Trump is less popular than in many other areas, she said.

“You’d be surprised how many people out there pay little attention to the news and lack strong feelings about politics,” she said. “I am reasonably certain they can find 12 people to serve on a jury in this case.”

Claire Finkelstein, a professor of law and philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, said the key for Trump’s lawyers will be weeding out the most anti-Trump potential jurors during jury selection, when they’ll be quizzed extensively about their views.

“Trump has a right to a jury of his peers — that does not mean a jury of Trump supporters,” she said. “His lawyers have the right to strike anyone who appears to be unable to exercise independent judgment on the case based on the facts and the law presented.”

Richard Serafini, a criminal defense lawyer in Florida who was previously a U.S. Justice Department attorney, said a motion to change venue would assume that jurors would ignore their oaths as jurors, ignore jury instructions, ignore evidence and simply vote along political lines. That would be incorrect, he said.

“My experience in doing more than 40 years of trial work is that jurors take their oaths and responsibilities seriously, pay attention to jury instructions, and try to follow the trial evidence wherever it leads,” Serafini said.

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