Donald Trump has been found liable for sexually abusing writer E. Jean Carroll and then defaming her when she came forward decades later, a jury decided Tuesday.
The New York jury rejected Carroll’s claim that Trump raped her but agreed with the rest of her civil case against the former U.S. president, dealing him another legal setback as he seeks a political comeback.
The jury awarded Carroll just under US$5 million in total damages.
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Jurors were required to reach a unanimous verdict after a seven-day civil trial, which Trump did not attend. He was not present when the verdict was read.
Following the verdict, Carroll’s lawyers put their arms around her, and she hugged supporters in the gallery, smiling through tears, The Associated Press reported.
Trump’s lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, shook hands with Carroll and hugged her lawyer, Roberta Kaplan. As the courtroom cleared, Carroll could be heard laughing and crying, according to reporters who attended the proceeding.
Carroll, 79, told jurors in Manhattan federal court that Trump, 76, raped her in a dressing room at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan in 1995 or 1996, and then ruined her reputation by denying it happened.
Her defamation claim concerned an October 2022 post on Truth Social in which he called her allegations a “complete con job” and “a Hoax and a lie.”
When Carroll first came forward in 2019, while Trump was president, he claimed he had no memory of her and went on to say Carroll wasn’t his “type.”
He repeated the latter comment in public several times, and defended it in a taped October 2022 deposition that was shown to the Manhattan jury.
Jurors were tasked with deciding whether Trump raped, sexually abused or forcibly touched Carroll, any one of which would satisfy her claim of battery. They were separately asked if Trump defamed Carroll.
Because this was a civil case, Trump faces no criminal consequences. Carroll was seeking unspecified monetary damages.
The former advice columnist and author was required to establish her rape claim by “a preponderance of the evidence” — meaning more likely than not — rather than the higher standard used in criminal cases of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” Carroll had to show “clear and convincing evidence” to prove her defamation claim.
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Trump’s legal team opted not to present a defence, gambling that jurors would find that Carroll had failed to make a persuasive case.
Trump had said Carroll, a former Elle magazine columnist and a registered Democrat, made up the allegations to try to increase sales of her 2019 memoir and to hurt him politically.
He has continued to rail against the case and Carroll herself on social media throughout the trial.
“I have absolutely no idea who this woman is,” he posted on Truth Social after the verdict was announced. “This verdict is a disgrace — a continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time!”
The verdict is another legal stain on Trump’s 2024 presidential bid. He has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in Manhattan — the first criminal charges ever laid against a former U.S. president.
Trump also faces federal investigations into his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election and his conduct related to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, as well as his alleged mishandling of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort.
A Georgia state prosecutor, Fani Willis, has indicated she will announce this summer whether to indict Trump for alleged election interference in that state.
Despite the mounting legal woes, Trump is still seen as the leading Republican candidate for the White House.
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Carroll testified, Trump deposition played
Carroll gave multiple days of frank, occasionally emotional testimony, buttressed by two friends who told jurors she reported the alleged attack to them in the moments and day afterward.
Jurors also heard from Jessica Leeds, a former stockbroker who testified that Trump abruptly groped her against her will on an airplane in the 1970s, and from Natasha Stoynoff, a writer who said Trump forcibly kissed her against her will while she was interviewing him for a 2005 article.
Carroll’s lawyers sought to establish a pattern of behaviour for Trump, who has been dogged for decades by multiple allegations of sexual assault. Trump has denied those claims.
The six-man, three-woman jury also saw the well-known 2005 Access Hollywood hot mic recording of Trump talking about kissing and grabbing women without asking. The video nearly derailed his 2016 campaign when it was released a month before the election.
Trump was also shown the video during his deposition, where he once again defended the comments as “locker room talk” and even claimed his talk about celebrities being allowed to touch women with impunity was true.
“Historically, that’s true, with stars … if you look over the last million years,” Trump said. “Unfortunately, or fortunately.”
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During the deposition, Trump also mistook Carroll for his ex-wife Marla Maples when shown a black-and-white photograph of Trump and his first wife Ivana meeting Carroll and her then-husband at an event.
He was also seen lashing out at Carroll’s lawyer as she questioned him, calling her a “disgrace” and a political operative.
Despite his claims that politics were behind Carroll’s accusation, he admitted during the deposition that no evidence was uncovered of Carroll’s political affiliations when he directed his White House staff to do so when the allegations first emerged in 2019.
— with files from Reuters and The Associated Press