Attorney Joe Tacopina can continue representing former President Trump in his criminal hush money case, a New York state judge said, after finding Tacopina had no conflict of interest.
Manhattan prosecutors this spring had raised questions about Tacopina’s prior dealings with Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who was paid the hush money at the center of the case.
New York Supreme Court acting Justice Juan Merchan, who is overseeing the case, in a new letter wrote that he saw no issue that requires Tacopina’s disqualification.
“Having considered the arguments advanced by you as well as the prosecution, together with all documentation provided in support thereof, I accept your representations, as well as those of Mr. Ross, as officers of the Court, that there is no conflict,” Merchan wrote, referring to a legal ethics expert who said Tacopina should be cleared.
The letter was dated Sept. 1 but became public Monday.
As Merchan weighed the potential conflict, Tacopina for months avoided signing his name to Trump’s various court filings.
Merchan’s letter said he would also revisit the issue with Trump “in an excess of caution” when the former president next appears in court virtually Feb. 15.
Trump is charged in the case with 34 criminal counts of falsifying business records over his reimbursements to his then-fixer, Michael Cohen, who made the 2016 hush money payment. Trump pleaded not guilty.
It marked the first time in U.S. history that a former president was indicted, and Trump has faced three additional indictments in the months since.
At Trump’s arraignment in April, Assistant District Attorney Chris Conroy noted a letter sent the day prior by Daniels’s attorney, Clark Brewster, raising questions about there being a potential conflict.
The letter said Daniels had previously contacted Tacopina’s law firm seeking consultation about the hush money arrangement. Tacopina has insisted he never represented Daniels and never actually met with her.
Merchan in his letter accepted Tacopina’s suggestion that he not cross-examine Daniels if she becomes a trial witness.
Prosecutors indicated at Trump’s arraignment they intended to call her to the stand.