A high-profile criminal attorney who failed to keep a violent insurrectionist client out of prison has joined former President Donald Trump’s defense team battling a sex assault lawsuit against him.
The U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York was notified in a filing Tuesday that Joseph Tacopina “hearby appears as counsel for Defendant Donald J. Trump” in the suit filed by writer E. Jean Carroll, who has accused Trump of raping her in the dressing room of a Manhattan department store in the mid-1990s.
Tacopina represented Julian Khater, who was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison last week for his role in the storming of the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021. Khater admitted using bear mace to spray several police officers during the siege, including Brian Sicknick, who died the next day following two strokes.
Tacopina has taken on a number of notorious defendants, including American Natalee Holloway’s suspected killer Joran van der Sloot during an Aruba vacation in 2005. Van der Sloot remains the primary suspect in Holloway’s death but has yet to be convicted in her case. (He’s serving 28 years in prison for the later murder of date Stephany Flores.)
It was initially widely reported in the media that Tacopina had replaced Trump’s high-profile attorney Alina Habba after she and Trump were fined nearly $1 million by a Florida judge last month for bringing what the judge called “completely frivolous” lawsuits that constituted an “abuse of the judicial process.”
But Habba insisted in statements that she was still part of the defense team in the Carroll case and called the reports “fake news.”
Carroll sued Trump for defamation in 2019 after he angrily denied her sexual battery allegation in a White House interview. He claimed that Carroll was not his “type” and that she was just out to get publicity.
Late last year she filed another suit against him under the recently passed Adult Survivors Act, which temporarily lifts the statute of limitations for a year on civil claims for sexual offenses.
Trump’s lawyers have denied the sexual assault allegation. As for defamation, they have argued that whatever Trump said as president was protected from any legal action. But Trump repeated some of the same attacks in posts on Truth Social early this year. He called Carroll’s accusation a “complete con job” and a “hoax and a lie.”
Whatever protections he may have had as president presumably vanished when he repeated the attacks as a private citizen. Because of Trump’s latest comments, Carroll’s attorneys included another count of defamation in her sexual battery case
Trump’s recently released deposition on the latest suit has been startlingly vicious. “I know nothing about this nut job,” he said, and he threatened to sue her, according to the transcript.
As for Carroll not being his “type,” Trump mistakenly identified a photo of the writer as his second ex-wife, Marla Maples, during the deposition.
Tacopina had earlier criticized Trump’s claim that attacking Carroll over her sexual battery accusation was somehow part of his “official” duties as president.
“Trump calling an alleged victim of rape ... a liar is not an act in his official capacity,” he told CNBC in 2020.