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‘Cowardly judge:’ Dismissed Trump hush money trial juror number 4 shares his story: Exclusive

In World
April 19, 2024

Herson Cabreras said he was taken by surprise when the judge overseeing Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial in New York dismissed him from jury service Thursday, after he had already been empaneled.

“That surprised me, that really surprised me,” Cabreras, previously known only as Juror Number 4, said in an exclusive interview with USA TODAY. “I said, ‘Wow, something else is going on here.’ But they decided not to take me, and that’s it. What can I say? So I said, ‘Fine.'”

Cabreras, an IT professional and political consultant, felt as if he had been inserted into the middle of a “competition” between Judge Juan Merchan, the prosecution and the defense.

“Everybody wants to look good and fair in front of the public, but they don’t act fair,” Cabreras said.

Trump is charged with 34 counts of allegedly falsifying business records to cover up a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels in order to influence the 2016 election.

Another juror who had been selected Tuesday was also dismissed Thursday, in her case because she said she no longer believed she could be impartial.

A very old arrest

The kerfuffle over his jury service arose after prosecutors raised the issue of a 1991 incident in which Cabreras and an associate were accused of tearing down political campaign signs in Harrison, New York, a suburb of New York City. A majority of the signs belonged to Republicans.

But Cabreras, who is in his late 70s, said he hardly even remembered the 33-year-old incident when he was confronted about it for the first time by the prosecution Thursday. He said he has served on civil juries in New York and never had to disclose the poster incident.

“I didn’t expect they were going to go into my history of 30 years and pull out something I didn’t even remember,” he said.

“I just thought it was an excuse,” for prosecutors to get him off the jury, Cabreras said. 

During the courtroom confrontation that led to his dismissal, largely inaudible to the reporters present, Cabreras expected Merchan to intervene. But, according to Cabreras, Merchan let prosecutors run away with the poster incident, using it to push him off the panel.

“I looked at him, like, ‘Aren’t you going to say something?'” Cabreras recalled. “I’m sitting there, I’m the target, and he’s supposed to be judging. And he just let it happen, he didn’t say anything.”

Though it’s not clear exactly what prompted prosecutors to pursue the 1991 incident, the questionnaire provided to jurors required them to disclose prior encounters with law enforcement or the criminal justice system.

During his initial appearance at voir dire, Cabreras made a now-famous comment about Trump being “fascinating and mysterious.” That phrase has since ricocheted across the national media, with analysts attempting to divine some kind of political leaning from those few words.

At the time of his 1991 arrest, Cabreras had recently worked with staffers to then-New York City Mayor David Dinkins, a Democrat.

Cabreras said that all he meant is wherever Trump goes, “he stirs up all kinds of things.”

“The guy walks in, and people go crazy,” he clarified. “That’s what I meant.”

But when Cabreras walked into court Thursday, he said he “didn’t even notice” Trump.

The whole episode left a bad taste in Cabreras’ mouth, and further left him with concerns about Merchan’s management of the courtroom, calling Merchan a “cowardly judge,” for allowing the prosecution to brandish these details from decades ago.

“I feel sorry for the other jurors,” he said, expressing concern about other jurors potentially being dragged into the center of a fiercely contested legal battle. “Because if the way they treated me is any indication of how they’re going to treat other potential jurors, then I feel sorry for them.”

But at the end of the day, “they did me a favor,” Cabreras said. Although he felt he could have been impartial, his family “was not happy with all this.”

Asher Stockler is a reporter for The Journal News and the USA Today Network New York. You can send him an email at astockler@lohud.com. Reach him securely: asher.stockler@protonmail.com.

This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Exclusive: Dismissed ‘Juror Number 4’ calls judge ‘cowardly’

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