By JENNIFER PELTZ
NEW YORK (AP) – Former President Donald Trump now has a Dec. 23 deadline to submit to questioning in a defamation lawsuit against a former ‘apprentice’ candidate over what he said by denying his allegations of sexual assault, a court said on Monday.
The new deadline for Trump’s testimony – a legal term for pre-trial examinations under oath – comes as Summer Zervos’ 2017 trial comes out of a freeze of more than a year.
“The defendant is now a private citizen, and he simply cannot delay this litigation any longer,” Zervos lawyer Moira Penza told a Manhattan judge’s forensic clerk on the teleconference.
Then-President Trump was weeks away from the January 2020 filing deadline when he was granted a deadline to ask New York’s highest court to consider a full stay until that he be removed from his post. He argued that sitting presidents could not be prosecuted in state courts.
After stepping down this year, the state’s High Court – known as the Court of Appeal – ruled the matter moot. The case has been sent to a Manhattan Magistrate’s Court for both sides to continue gathering evidence.
Trump and Zervos’ depositions are now due by December 23. Their lawyers have two weeks to try to set specific dates, or the court will set them.
Zervos, a Californian restaurateur, appeared on “The Apprentice” in 2006. Trump was the host at the time.
A decade later, he was the Republican candidate for president and she was one of a series of women who had publicly accused him of sexual assault or harassment years before. Zervos said he subjected her to unwanted kissing and fumbling during what she believed were career counseling meetings in 2007 at his New York office and at a California hotel he was staying at.
He denied his allegations, retweeted a post calling his allegations a “hoax” and described the women who accused him of sexual assault and harassment as “liars” trying to damage the chances of his 2016 campaign.
Zervos then sued, claiming he damaged his reputation. She asks for a retraction, an apology and unspecified damages.
Former Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz called Zervos’ claims unjustified and said Trump’s statements were true and protected by the right to free speech.
Trump’s new lawyer Alina Habba said on Monday that she plans to expand the former president’s response to the case. She said she plans to build on a 2020 New York law designed to protect people from frivolous lawsuits launched by the powerful to quell criticism.
The law broadened an existing law, making it easier to fight defamation complaints when they relate to communication in public “in connection with a matter of public interest”, defined as “any matter other than a purely private matter” .
Trump had previously referred to somewhat similar California law among his defenses in Zervos’ trial. Still, Habba said relying on New York’s status would make a difference.
“With the new law in place, I think this case will be closed very quickly,” she said after the court.
When the measure was passed by the state legislature last year, a sponsor cited Trump himself as the rationale.
“For decades Donald Trump, his billionaire friends, big business and other powerful forces have abused our legal system by attempting to harass, intimidate and impoverish their critics with strategic lawsuits against public participation. Democratic State Senator Brad Hoylman said in July. Declaration 2020.
Trump and his campaign have sued a number of media outlets for their coverage of him, including a lawsuit he filed last month against his estranged niece and the New York Times over an article by 2018 on his family’s wealth and tax practices. The lawsuit accused the defendants of “an insidious plot to obtain confidential and highly sensitive files” in violation of a Trump family settlement agreement.
Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoads Ha called the prosecution “an attempt to silence independent news agencies.”
The Associated Press generally does not identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted, unless they come forward publicly, as Zervos did.