Joe Tacopina, exhibit A
There’s a story about Pablo Picasso that’s so good I hope it’s true. Even if it isn’t, it has great allegorical merit. During the occupation of Paris, so the story goes, Picasso was visited by a German officer. While the officer strolled around the artist’s studio he came upon a stack of postcards depicting the painter’s greatest anti-war artwork, “Guernica,” a hellish representation of Hitler’s barbaric air assault on that defenseless Spanish town.
The German picked one of the postcards up and said, “Did you do this?” “No,” Picasso calmly replied, “you did.”
That ironic tale comes unbidden to my mind virtually every time I confront a loathsome, misogynistic defender of rapists. It was particularly useful in the three or four years I served as an administrator of a Facebook page devoted to defending the survivors of Bill Cosby. A typical slut-shaming cretin would demand to know why the women didn’t come forward sooner. “Because of you,” was one of my typically Picasso-esque replies.
That is the crowning irony about rape apologists. So it comes as no surprise that one of the most loathsome, anti-woman symbols of our time, Donald Trump, would pick an absurdly misogynistic goombah mallet-head like lawyer Joe Tacopina to represent him in his civil rape trial.
For those of you who haven’t been following the trial, writer E Jean Carroll is suing Donald Trump because she claimed in a book she wrote that Trump raped her in a department store in the 90s. Trump publicly called her a liar from the bully pulpit of the presidency. So Carroll is suing Trump for defamation.
Carroll’s lawyers have sought Trump’s DNA for three years to compare it with stains found on the dress Carroll wore the day she says Trump raped her. Analysis of DNA on the dress concluded it did contain traces of an unknown male’s DNA. Trump refused to turn over his own DNA, a thing he would have done immediately if he were innocent.
So Trump’s lawyers tried a sneaky trick. Late in the litigation in the run up to the trial they agreed to turn over Trump’s DNA if the plaintiff would first turn over all the DNA evidence she has. Their intent was that they could first secretly check to make sure the DNA was Trump’s and, if it was, they could then find some pretext to refuse to cooperate.
The lawyers almost certainly knew that the judge would disallow such an attempt at shenanigans this late in the trial, and so he did. So now they can claim they TRIED to turn over Trump’s DNA, but it was procedurally disallowed. Better yet, they could even claim the victim didn’t want to see it. It was a filthy dirty trick. But then, Donald Trump is a filthy dirty man.
So now Joe Tacopina thinks the best way to win his client’s case is to hamfistedly bully and intimidate the 80 year old plaintiff on the witness stand. Former prosecutor Harry Litman explained it this way on MSNBC’s “The Beat” on Monday. “His whole theory is she’s making it up out of whole cloth. He goes for two days on a cross-examination, doesn’t wear kid gloves, and does the kinds of points you would do if you’re alleging, was this consensual or whatever,” said Litman. “But really, his point has to be — his only shot, she’s making it up completely.”
Unfortunately for the defense, Ms. Carroll has two contemporaneous witnesses, women Ms. Carroll confided the incident to on two separate occasions immediately following the rape. One of the women advised Carroll not to report Trump to the police because Trump was a powerful man even then and she suggested that he’d lawyer up and destroy her. Carroll took that advice and regrets it to this day.
It’s important to understand that this all happened twenty years before the “Me Too” movement, and women back then had even less chance of successfully bringing rape charges against men. It’s literally where we get the expression “he said she said” from, as if any criminal report made by a woman about rape comes down to her word against the rapist’s.
Former federal prosecutor Barb McQuade said, “Joe Tacopina is Exhibit A as to why people don’t come forward when they’ve been victims of sexual assault, because this is the humiliating kind of cross-examination they have to endure.” So should Tacopina ask Ms Carroll what kept her from coming forward sooner, she could ironically give the Picasso-like answer, “You did.” And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.