A civil jury on Tuesday found former President Donald Trump liable for sexually abusing the writer E. Jean Carroll at a New York department store in the 1990s, and for defaming her last fall when he denied her claim.
The jury of six men and three women also ordered Trump to pay Carroll a total of $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages after deliberating less than three hours in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
Jurors notably did not find Trump liable for rape, the most serious allegation Carroll made in a lawsuit filed last year.
But their verdict that he sexually abused and forcibly touched her without her consent during a chance encounter in the Bergdorf Goodman store substantiated her civil claim of battery. Trial in the case began on April 25.
“I filed this lawsuit against Donald Trump to clear my name and to get my life back,” Carroll, 79, said in a statement Tuesday.
“Today, the world finally knows the truth,” said Carroll, a former “Elle” magazine advice columnist and biographer of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson.
“This victory is not just for me but for every woman who has suffered because she was not believed.”
Her lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, in her own statement, said, “No one is above the law, not even a former President of the United States.”
“For far too long, survivors of sexual assault faced a wall of doubt and intimidation,” Kaplan added. We hope and believe today’s verdict will be an important step in tearing that wall down.”
Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump rides a golf cart at Trump International Golf Links course, in Doonbeg, Ireland May 4, 2023.
Damien Storan | Reuters
Trump, who neither testified at trial nor ever appeared in court, blasted the verdict in a post on Truth Social, his social media site.
“I have absolutely no idea who this woman is,” the 76-year-old Trump wrote. “This verdict is a disgrace.”
His lawyer Joseph Tacopina told CNBC, “Her claim was that she was raped and the jury rejected it. Perplexing to say the least.”
“Obviously we will be appealing,” said Tacopina.
He noted that Judge Lewis Kaplan, the trial judge who is not related to Roberta Kaplan, last year had a key ruling overturned by a federal appeals court in another, similar pending lawsuit by Carroll against Trump.
“We expect it to happen again,” the attorney said.
The other lawsuit alleges Trump defamed Carroll when she went public with her claim of rape in a 2019 New York magazine article.
At the time, Trump was president, and questions about whether he can be held liable for defamatory statements while serving in that official position have for years effectively stalled that case.
E. Jean Carroll exits the Manhattan Federal Court following the verdict in the civil rape accusation case against former U.S. President Donald Trump, in New York City, May 9, 2023.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
The trial’s result Tuesday is the latest — but possibly not the last — legal blow against Trump, who leads early polls for the 2024 GOP nomination.
In late March he was indicted by a Manhattan state Supreme Court grand jury on nearly three dozen counts of falsifying business records in connection with a 2016 hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels. He has pleaded not guilty in that case.
Trump also faces pending federal criminal investigations related to his efforts to overturn his loss in the 2020 presidential election, and to his failure to surrender government documents when he left the White House in early 2021.
And he faces possible indictment by a Georgia grand jury this summer for his attempt to get officials in that state to reverse President Joe Biden’s victory there in the 2020 election.
Georgia was one of several swing states that gave Biden his margin of victory in the Electoral College.
Trump cannot be prosecuted for the alleged rape of Carroll because the statute of limitations for such a crime has long since passed.
But Carroll sued him with a civil claim of battery under a New York state law enacted in late 2022 that opened a one-year window for lawsuits alleging sexual assaults which otherwise would be barred by the statute of limitations.
Carroll also claimed that Trump defamed her last fall when he said she had made up her account of being raped.
Trump at the time called her allegations “a complete con job,” and said that she was not his “type.”
Despite that claim, Trump in a deposition for the case taken by Robert Kaplan last fall mistook Carroll for his second wife Marla Maples in a photo showing him and Carroll together in the 1980s.
Former Elle magazine advice columnist E. Jean Carroll watches as a former U.S. president Donald Trump’s video deposition is played in court during a civil trial where Carroll accuses the former U.S. president in a civil lawsuit of raping her in a department store dressing room in the mid-1990s, and of defamation, in New York, U.S., May 4, 2023 in this courtroom sketch.
Jane Rosenberg | Reuters
Portions of a video of his deposition were played for jurors during the trial, and during closing arguments on Monday.
That deposition included Trump being asked about his comments in 2005 during a taping for the entertainment television show “Access Hollywood,” in which he boasted: “I’m automatically attracted to beautiful women — I just start kissing them, it’s like a magnet.”
“Just kiss. I don’t even wait,” Trump said on that tape.
“And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” he said, including “grab ’em by the p—-.”
Trump told Carroll’s lawyer during the deposition that those comments were “locker room talk.”
But he also said it has been “historically … true with stars” that they could grab women without their permission.
“If you look over the last million years, I guess that’s been largely true,” Trump testified at the time.
“Not always, but largely true. Unfortunately or fortunately.”
When Carroll took the witness stand two weeks ago she testified, “I’m here because Trump raped me.”
Carroll recounted running into Trump and chatting with him late one afternoon Bergdorf Goodman, where he recognized her as an advice columnist.
She testified that when they ended up in the store’s lingerie department, he ushered her into a dressing room, where he shoved her against a wall and sexually assaulted her.
Two friends of Carroll’s, Lisa Birnbach and Carol Marin, testified she had told them soon afterward that Trump had raped her.
Two other women testified that Trump had kissed and groped them without their consent in incidents that occurred years apart.
A spokesman for Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign said of Tuesday’s verdict, “The Democratic Party’s never-ending witch-hunt of President Trump hit a new low today.”
“In jurisdictions wholly controlled by the Democratic Party our nation’s justice system is now compromised by extremist left-wing politics,” the spokesman said in a statement.
“Make no mistake, this entire bogus case is a political endeavor targeting President Trump because he is now an overwhelming front-runner to be once again elected President of the United States.”
But Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, told reporters at the U.S. Capitol that while the jury verdict does not necessarily have any effect on Trump’s candidacy, “The fact is, I do not think he could win the presidency.”
“He’s got a solid supportive base, but you can’t win a general election with just your base,” Cornyn said, according to NBC News. “So you have to appeal to a broader spectrum of people and he just never seems to try to do that. So to me, that’s the reason why I don’t think he can get elected.”
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