NEW YORK — New York City lawyer Joe Tacopina convinced the judge presiding over Donald Trump’s hush money case that his prior dealings with porn star Stormy Daniels wouldn’t pose a conflict representing the former president, according to a filing reviewed by the Daily News Monday.
Prosecutors flagged Tacopina’s prior communications with Daniels after he joined Trump’s team in the case centering on an illegal payment to the adult film star ahead of the 2016 election. Daniels’ lawyer, Clark Brewster, filed a complaint with a grievance committee after finding out Tacopina was on the case.
At Trump’s April arraignment, Tacopina told Judge Juan Merchan that Daniels had called his firm in 2018 when she was looking for a lawyer and spoke with one of his associates and a paralegal. At the time, he suggested he would represent her in a television interview.
“We refused the case. I did not offer her representation. Didn’t speak to her. Didn’t meet with her,” Tacopina said at the hearing where Trump told Merchan he understood his right to conflict-free representation.
After meeting with Tacopina and conferring with an ethics expert, Merchan, in a Sept. 1 letter, said he would accept there is no conflict.
“[The] court will revisit this issue with Mr. Trump when he next appears virtually on February 15, 2024,” Merchan wrote. “[The] court accepts your suggestion that you do not participate in the examination of Ms. Daniels if she is called as a witness at trial.”
Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felonies alleging he reimbursed his ex-lawyer, Michael Cohen, under the table for the hush money payment that violated election laws. According to evidence leading to Cohen’s federal conviction, the money was intended to silence Daniels about an extramarital tryst in 2006.
The case is slated for trial on March 25, though Merchan has signaled openness to pushing it back when the parties reconvene in February. Trump faces another three trials in Florida, Washington, D.C., and Georgia on unrelated charges.
Reached for comment, Tacopina said, “I have said from day one there is no conflict. Now the court has said the same.”
Brewster did not immediately respond to an inquiry from The News. The Manhattan district attorney’s office declined to comment.
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