close
close

Judge in Trump trial reports Facebook post claiming jurors leaked information

The judge in the hush money case against Donald Trump has sent a letter alerting the legal teams to a Facebook post about the case.

In Judge Juan Merchan's letter, which was also posted on the New York court's website, both sides were informed of a comment made by a person who claimed to know the verdict in advance because his cousin was on the jury.

According to the letter, a user named Michael Anderson wrote: “My cousin is a juror and says Trump will be convicted. Thank you guys for all your hard work!!!!”

It's unclear when the comment was written, but according to Merchan, it was found with a Facebook date of “one week old” and appeared under a May 29 post on the New York Courts page.

The Times could not verify the post or any details about the Facebook user who posted it because it has been deleted. Trump was convicted on May 30 of 34 counts of falsifying business records.

Merchan said the court had “become aware of a comment” and wanted to bring it to the attention of both legal teams. The judge did not say whether the court had opened an investigation.

When asked about the letter, a Trump campaign official told NBC News: “We are investigating.”

Throughout the trial and since his conviction, Trump has criticized the verdict, the judge and the legal system as corrupt and rigged against him. In an interview with Newsmax this week, he complained that he had “never seen even a hint of a smile from the jury.”

The 12 Manhattan residents who delivered the verdicts were randomly selected and went through a vetting process. They remained anonymous throughout the six-week trial and have not yet identified themselves or given interviews with the media, although they can do so now that the trial is over.

Under New York criminal law, a defendant may seek to overturn a conviction for juror misconduct if he or she can show that the misconduct created a substantial risk of prejudice. Jurors are prohibited from discussing a trial or deliberations with anyone until the conclusion of the trial.

Legal experts said the significance of the Facebook post and its use in any appeal and retrial obviously depends on the true identity of “Michael Anderson.”

Howard Greenberg, a veteran criminal defense attorney, said he doubted anything would come of it. “The judge is writing out of an abundance of caution,” he said, suggesting the comment was the work of an online troll. “I guarantee you it's baseless. If nobody can substantiate it, it's not going to go anywhere. And nobody will be able to substantiate it.”

Fred Lichtmacher, a New York criminal defense attorney, said he expected Trump's defense team to “spare no expense” to attribute the comment to a juror, adding: “They have the names of the jurors.”

If a juror had disclosed the deliberations during the trial, “that could be a serious violation,” he said, but added that Trump's lawyers would have to prove that it could have influenced the outcome. The commentator “could be a loud-mouthed idiot bragging for attention,” he said. “I don't think that's going to lead to anything.”

Neama Rahmani, president of West Coast Trial Lawyers, agreed that much more would be needed to challenge the verdict. “You have to show bias,” he said. He pointed to recent allegations that a court clerk tried to influence the jury in a South Carolina murder trial, adding that even if the judge in that case had concluded that the jury would have still returned a guilty verdict.

“The defense would have to present something from the jury itself that reveals an agenda,” he said. “Even if they did, the judge would hold an evidentiary hearing, the parties would question the jury. It would require much more.”

Trump's sentencing is scheduled for July 11, and he has already appealed the verdict.