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Trump found liable for sexually abusing and defaming E. Jean Carroll in civil trial and is ordered to pay $5 million

A New York jury on Tuesday found former President Donald Trump liable for sexually abusing writer E. Jean Carroll in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s, but not liable for her alleged rape

The jury awarded her $5 million in damages for her battery and defamation claims.

Asked on their verdict sheet if Carroll, 79, had proven “by a preponderance of the evidence” that “Mr. Trump raped Ms. Carroll,” the nine-person jury checked the box that said “no.” Asked if Carroll had proven “by a preponderance of the evidence” that “Mr. Trump sexually abused Ms. Carroll,” the jury checked the box that said “yes.” Both allegations were elements of Carroll’s battery claim.

The six men and three women also found Trump had defamed her by calling her claims a “hoax” and “a con job.”

Trump, a 2024 presidential candidate, has consistently denied Carroll’s claims. The jury verdict carries no criminal implications. 

The legal standard for liability in the civil case — the preponderance of the evidence — was not as high as in criminal cases. The civil benchmark is that it’s more likely than not that something occurred, while the standard for convictions in criminal cases is proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Carroll sued Trump accusing him of battery and defamation in Manhattan federal court last year, alleging he raped her in the dressing room of a Bergdorf Goodman department store near his Fifth Avenue home in 1995 or 1996. She first went public with the claim in 2019 in her book, “What Do We Need Men For?: A Modest Proposal.”

Trump, first as president and then as a private citizen, called her account a fiction that she concocted to boost book sales, and has said the writer is “not my type.” He did not testify in the case, but portions of his videotaped deposition from October were played for the jury.

The verdict was required to be unanimous.

Carroll was her own star witness at the trial, which began April 25. “I’m here because Trump raped me,” she told jurors during her three days on the witness stand.

Carroll said she’d met Trump once before, in the late 1980s, before bumping into him at the entrance of the department store near Trump’s home and office in Trump Tower.

Carroll, an advice columnist for Elle magazine at the time, said Trump told her he was shopping for a lady friend and invited her to come along. “He was very personable,” she said.

She said she’d had a fun time chatting with him as the excursion eventually led to the sixth-floor lingerie department. “He was joshing and pleasant and very funny,” she said, and they each joked about trying on lingerie.

Carroll alleged Trump motioned her toward the dressing room, and when she went in, he “shut the door and shoved me against the wall” and raped her. “I couldn’t see anything was happening, but I could certainly feel that pain,” she said, alleging the attack lasted a “few minutes” before she was able to flee.

Carroll said she called a friend, writer Lisa Birnbach, afterward to tell her what had happened, and Birnbach told her to call the police. Carroll said she told her “no way” because she blamed herself for the attack.

Carroll also said she told another friend, Carol Martin, what happened days later, and Martin urged her not to go to the police for fear the real estate tycoon and his lawyers would “bury her.”

Birnbach and Martin both testified on Carroll’s behalf and supported her account.

Trump’s defense

Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina told jurors in his opening statement that Carroll’s claims were “unbelievable.”

“She is doing this for money, political reasons and status,” he alleged. “And in doing so, she is minimizing true rape victims and destroying their pain and capitalizing on them.”

When Carroll was on the witness stand, he asked if she’d been “supposedly raped.” “I was raped,” she responded.

Tacopina also repeatedly pressed her about why she didn’t scream for help or go to the police.

“He raped me, whether I screamed or not,” Carroll told him.

Asked if she agreed that not reporting the attack to the police “is an odd fact,” Carroll said, “Many women do not go to the police, and I understand why.”

Tacopina also grilled Carroll, a Democrat, on her politics and on her old social media posts, including one from 2012 where she said she was a “massive” fan of Trump’s show “The Apprentice.”

“I was a big fan of the show. Very impressed by it,” Carroll testified, adding that she didn’t like and wouldn’t watch the parts with Trump firing contestants.

Trump’s attorneys wound up resting their case without putting on any witnesses. Trump had been listed as a possible witness, but waived his right to testify, Tacopina told the judge presiding over the case, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan.

Other accusers

Carroll’s attorneys, meanwhile, played excerpts from Trump’s deposition to the jury, including a portion where he misidentified a picture of Carroll in the 1980s as being his now ex-wife Marla Maples.

They also tried to bolster her case by presenting testimony from two other women who alleged they were accosted by the businessman.

Jessica Leeds, 81, alleged Trump started groping her out of the blue while they were sitting next to each other on a flight to New York in the late 1970s. The other, Natasha Stoynoff, testified she’d gone to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in 2005 to interview him and Melania Trump for a story on their first wedding anniversary. She alleged Trump pushed her against a wall and started kissing her before they were interrupted by a staffer.

Trump has denied both Leeds’ and Stoynoff’s claims. At a campaign rally in 2016, Trump appeared to make fun of Leeds’ appearance while ridiculing her allegations, saying she “would not be my first choice.” 

He defended those comments in his deposition, where he also repeatedly insulted Carroll, her attorney Roberta Kaplan, Leeds and Stoynoff.

“I don’t want to be insulting, but when people accuse me of something, I think I have a right to be insulting because they’re insulting me. They’re doing the ultimate insult, they make up stories and then I’m not allowed to speak my mind? No. I disagree with that,” he said.

An anonymous jury

In an unusual move for a civil case, the judge used an anonymous jury for the trial, citing Trump’s history of inflammatory rhetoric about the justice system.

“It bears mention that Mr. Trump repeatedly has attacked courts, judges, various law enforcement officials and other public officials, and even individual jurors in other matters,” Kaplan said in his decision.

He said he was keeping their identities secret even from both sides’ lawyers because, “If jurors’ identities were disclosed, there would be a strong likelihood of unwanted media attention to the jurors, influence attempts, and/or of harassment or worse of jurors by supporters of Mr. Trump.”

All of the nine jurors selected swore they could be impartial.

The verdict might not be the last time the two sides face off in court.

Carroll filed an earlier lawsuit against Trump over allegedly defamatory comments he made about her over her rape allegations while he was president. That case is still pending in the same courthouse and before the same judge in the second case.

It had been stalled in a Washington, D.C., federal appeals court over whether Trump was immune from liability because he was president at the time of the comments. The appeals court sent that case back to Kaplan last month.

In November, Carroll filed the second suit that went to trial with the rape allegation as well as a new defamation claim stemming from Trump’s post-presidency remarks about her. She filed it after New York passed a law that opened a one-year window for adult victims of sexual offenses to file civil suits, even if the statute of limitations on their claims had expired, as it had for Carroll.

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