Trump Hush-Money Case Roiled by Mysterious Facebook Post Claiming ‘Cousin’ on Jury Bragged of Coming Conviction: Is It Merely a Troll?

The judge in the case, Juan Merchan, notified defense attorneys and prosecutors of the Facebook posting.

Jabin Botsford-pool/Getty Images
President Trump with attorneys Todd Blanche and Emil Bove at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 29, 2024. Jabin Botsford-pool/Getty Images

The New York Supreme Court judge, who is overseeing President Trump’s hush-money case and will sentence Trump next month, sent a letter to defense attorneys and to the prosecution on Friday, informing them that a person on Facebook claimed to have had advance knowledge of the guilty verdict in the case.

“Today, the Court became aware of a comment that was posted on the Unified Court System’s public Facebook page and which I now bring to your attention,” the judge wrote in his short letter. “In the comment, the user, ‘Michael Anderson,’ states: ‘My cousin is a juror and says Trump is getting convicted 🎉 Thank you folks for all your hard work !!!!❤️.’”  

The judge then briefly explained under which post the commentator had left his perplexing message, adding a link to the comment. 

“The comment, now labeled as one week old … responded to a routine UCS notice,” the judge wrote, and would be viewable at” 

Judge Juan Merchan in his chambers at New York, March 14, 2024. AP Photo/Seth Wenig

By Friday evening, many journalists were dismissing the posting as a hoax. “It looks increasingly likely to be a hoax/troll,” wrote Politico’s senior legal affairs reporter, Kyle Cheney, on X, formerly known as Twitter. 

The UCS post and the suspicious comment have since been removed from Facebook. The UCS post, which the judge referred to as a “routine UCS notice” was an announcement for a public “chat” with an Associate Justice at the Appellate Division First Department, Jeffrey K. Oing, “for their Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Diversity Dialogue.” The mid-level appeals court was seeking to promote diversity in the courts by staging a conversation with Judge Oing, who was born in Hong Kong and came to the United States at the age of four. 

The announcement of the “diversity dialogue” was posted on May 20. The suspicious comment, by a user named “Michael Anderson,” was posted on May 29, one day before the jury verdict reached its verdict. 

The unredacted version of the comment reads, “Thank you for all your hard against the MAGA crazies! My cousin is a juror on Trumps criminal case and they’re going to convict him tomorrow according to her. 🙏Thank you New York courts!!!! ❤️”  

The suspicious comment was immediately met with reproach. Facebook

Then another account, by the name of “Lopsided FreeSpeech,” replied that the comment incriminated “Michael’s” cousin because jurors swear an oath not to discuss the case with anyone before it ends. 

“Well, you just implicated your cousin in a crime if what you say is true. It is against the law for a juror to discuss the case before it has ended. Thank you for shedding light on your cousin’s actions.” 

Michael Anderson then replied, “Now we are married ❤️😁.” 

In a statement to the media, the spokesperson for the New York court system, Al Baker, said, “As appropriate, the Court informed the parties once it learned of this online content.”

Facebook user ‘Michael Anderson’ posted a picture of 1980s punk rocker GG Allinn, who was known for defecating on stage, self-mutilation and other transgressive behavior. Facebook

The twelve selected jurors, and the six alternates, were instructed not to discuss the facts of the case with anyone, including the judge, once the trial had started, and took an oath to abide by that rule. Under New York law, a breach of that agreement could serve as grounds to set aside the jury’s verdict.

The statute lists, as reasons to set aside a verdict, “That during the trial there occurred, out of the presence of the court, improper conduct by a juror, or improper conduct by another person in relation to a juror, which may have affected a substantial right of the defendant and which was not known to the defendant prior to the rendition of the verdict.” 

In theory, a juror, who discussed the verdict with a cousin, who then posted the outcome a day before the verdict, could appear to be grounds “to set aside a verdict.”  

But the devil is in the details, and the details are that the defense would have to first identify the actual juror, then find the juror’s cousin, if he or she exists, and then provide evidence that the juror was indeed biased. Last but far from least, the defense would have to prove to the court how such bias would have directly affected Trump’s substantial rights.

Almost every juror is biased to some degree; the question is whether or not the juror can set aside his or her personal feelings and judge the case according to the facts and evidence provided by the parties. There has to be a direct relation between the alleged bias and the rights of the defendant that would have to have been violated in some form.

Another issue that the defense would face is that they agreed and accepted all jurors after the jury selection process, raising the bar even higher to show that the juror was somehow prejudiced.

Judge Juan Merchan presides over Donald Trump’s trial at Manhattan criminal court. Elizabeth Williams via AP

Assuming that the Facebook comment would be determined not to be a hoax, and also assuming that investigators could figure out which juror spoke to his or her cousin, the prosecution could ask for some form of punishment. The defense could file a motion for mistrial but, as mentioned above, would have to prove that Trump was harmed.    

On Friday evening, the person of interest, Michael Anderson, said in a post that he is “a professional shitposter,” followed by a laughing-crying emoji. His  Facebook profile also has a header that reads, “Facebook, wasting peoples lives since 2004,” and chose as a nickname “fuck you.”               

The other account, which replied to the mysterious comment, Lopsided FreeSpeech, has no profile picture or account history posted. 

Michael Anderson’s account, according to various media outlets, had previously reposted a picture of GG Allinn, a punk rock musician from the 1980s and early 1990s known for defecating on stage and other transgressive acts, who died of a heroin overdose in 1993.  

Loren Merchan, Judge Juan Merchan’s daughter, has worked as a Democratic operative. Facebook

The entire matter struck many observers as strange and suspicious. A vaguely similar situation arose shortly before the trial began in late March, when a MAGA activist and vocal Trump supporter, Laura Loomer, claimed that Judge Merchan’s adult daughter, Loren, had an X account with a profile picture of Trump in jail. Ms. Merchan has worked as a president and partner for Authentic Campaigns, and her clients included devoted enemies of Trump such as Vice President Harris and Congressman Adam Schiff. 

Ms. Loomer posted images from this X, formerly Twitter, account that showed the profile picture of Trump behind bars. Court officials soon claimed, however, that Ms. Merchan had abandoned that account more than a year ago, and that someone else appeared to have taken over the handle and added the offending picture, which was immediately removed and mysteriously replaced with a picture of Ms. Harris as a child. 

On Friday, in a signal that the Facebook scare would have no immediate effect on the proceedings, Judge Merchan also published an order, allowing Trump’s defense attorney, Todd Blanche, to attend the “pre-sentencing interview with the defendant”    

It is customary that a defendant can have his attorney present during this kind of interview, which is conducted by a probation officer preparing a report on the convict ahead of the sentencing hearing.  

President Trump speaks to the media with his attorney Todd Blanche (R) after the day’s proceedings in his criminal trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 16, 2024 at New York City. Steven Hirsch-Pool/Getty Images

By Friday evening, Trump had not made any comments about the Facebook post on his social media platform, Truth Social. Instead, on Friday evening, he denounced “Crooked Joe Biden’s Executive Order at the Border.” Referring to a juror could possibly violate his gag order, which prohibits him from making public comments about the witnesses, jurors, counsel, and court staff, and family members of the trial participants. More violations of the gag order could negatively impact Trump ahead of sentencing. 

As the Sun reported, Trump’s attorneys sent a letter to Judge Merchan on Tuesday, asking him to remove the restriction, which the judge imposed on Trump on March 26, before the trial began, in order “to protect the integrity of the criminal proceedings,” and “the significant and imminent threats against the trial.”  

But Trump’s lawyers argued that “Now that the trial is concluded, the concerns articulated by the Government and the Court do not justify continued restrictions on the First Amendment rights of President Trump – who remains the leading candidate in the 2024 election – and the American people.”

The attorneys further wrote that Trump will face his opponent, President Biden, on June 27 in their first presidential debate, and Trump should be allowed to freely address the case.  

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, who brought the case against Trump, answered on Wednesday, stating that the court “has an obligation to protect the integrity of these proceedings and the fair administration of justice at least through the sentencing hearing and the resolution of any post-trial motions.” 

President Trump walks to speak to the press after being found guilty following his hush money trial at Manhattan Criminal Court on May 30, 2024 at New York City. Steven Hirsch-Pool/Getty Images

Prosecutors proposed that both parties should submit their arguments regarding the gag order in writing to the judge in the next few weeks. If Judge Merchan accepts this proposal it could take until the end of the month until there is a ruling on the matter, and Trump could possibly head into the debate with the gag order in place. 

Judge Merchan has not answered yet, and the matter remains unresolved.       

Trump was charged by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, with 34 felony counts of falsification of business records in a scheme to interfere with the 2016 election.

At the heart of the case was a $130,000 hush-money payment Trump’s former lawyer and current nemesis, Michael Cohen, made to the adult film star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, in 2016 to buy her silence about her claim that she had a single sexual encounter with Trump at a celebrity golf tournament at Lake Tahoe in 2006.

The prosecution accused Trump of directing Cohen to wire the money to Ms. Clifford and then disguising his reimbursement to Cohen as a legal fee. Trump was found guilty on all 34 counts on May 30, making him the first former president in the history of America with a felony conviction. 

The former president awaits sentencing on July 11. Trump has said he will appeal the verdict, that the court battle is “long from over” and that, “The real verdict will be on November 5th by THE PEOPLE.”  

The New York Sun

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