Trump Found Liable for Sexual Abuse and Defamation in E. Jean Carroll Case, Ordered To Pay $5 Million in Damages

The verdict marks the first instance of an American president being found liable by a jury for sexual assault.

E. Jean Carroll and President Trump. AP

Less than three hours after its deliberations began, a Manhattan jury has found that President Trump more likely than not sexually abused author E. Jean Carroll at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in the mid-1990s and agreed with the statement that the former president defamed her character in denying her claims when they were first made in 2019. 

Ms. Carroll claimed that Mr. Trump raped her in either 1995 or 1996 — an allegation that the jury rejected. Members of the jury did, though, agree that she had been sexually abused. Mr. Trump has been ordered to pay Ms. Carroll about $5 million for both assaulting her in the 1990s and for defaming her character. It is the first instance of an American president being found liable by a jury for sexual assault. 

Shortly after the verdict was announced, Mr. Trump responded on his social media platform, Truth Social, calling it a “disgrace.” As deliberations began on Tuesday morning, he said that he “wasn’t allowed to speak or defend” himself, even though he chose to not put up a defense or testify, and was given multiple opportunities to do so by the presiding judge.

During the closing arguments at Manhattan on Monday, Ms. Carroll’s lawyers argued that the alleged assault is part of a decades-long pattern by the former president — assaulting women, defaming them when he is publicly accused, and disparaging their physical appearances and motivations.

Mr. Trump’s legal team pointed out several inconsistencies in Ms. Carroll’s story and gaps in her memory as cause for the jury to rule against his accuser.      

One of Ms. Carroll’s attorneys, Shawn Crowley, asserted that Mr. Trump’s pattern of harassing and assaulting women is consistent and well-documented. “Start with a friendly encounter in a semi-public place,” Ms. Crowley said. “All of a sudden: Pounce, kiss, grab, grope. Don’t wait. And when they speak up about what happened, attack,” she added. “Humiliate them. Call them liars. Call them too ugly to assault.”    

Ms. Carroll’s lawsuit largely depended on testimony from other women who claim to have been the object of groping and unwanted kissing by Mr. Trump many years ago. On May 2, a woman named Jessica Leeds told the jury that the former president groped her on a plane in the late 1970s after she was invited to sit in first class.    

“He was trying to kiss me and trying to pull me,” Ms. Leeds said of Mr. Trump. “He was grabbing my breasts. It’s like he had 40 zillion hands.”   

Another woman, journalist Natasha Stoyonoff, testified that Mr. Trump sexually assaulted her at his Mar-a-Lago estate in late 2005 when she was writing a profile of the future president and his new wife, Melania, for People magazine.    

Ms. Stoyonoff claimed that Mr. Trump was giving her a private tour of his Florida estate as his wife was getting dressed for the interview. She said that he took her to an empty room and shut the door behind her. “He was against me and just holding my shoulders back,” Ms. Stoyonoff said. “I didn’t say words. I couldn’t. I tried. I mean, I was just flustered and sort of shocked and I — no words came out of me. I tried, though. I remember just sort of mumbling.”     

Because Ms. Carroll never filed a police report or told many people about the alleged incident at the time, questions about her credibility and motive for bringing the suit now have been aggressively asked by Mr. Trump’s legal team.      

The former president’s lead attorney, Joseph Tacopina, said Ms. Carroll accused Mr. Trump of rape in her 2019 memoir and brought this suit for “money, status, political reasons.”             

The presiding judge in the case, Lewis Kaplan — who is not related to one of Ms. Carroll’s lawyers, Roberta Kaplan — told both parties early in the trial to refrain from making inflammatory public statements “that will incite violence or civil unrest.”      

In a surprising twist as the trial came to a close, Mr. Trump on Thursday claimed he would “probably” return to Manhattan in order to “confront” his accusers despite previously saying he would not attend the trial. Mr. Tacopina had told the court in no uncertain terms that his client would not testify or appear in court at all. Judge Kaplan did offer the former president the opportunity to submit a motion to testify by Sunday at 5 p.m., but that ultimately did not happen.     

The only time the jury heard from the former president during the trial was through a video of a deposition he gave in 2022. “If it did happen, it would have been reported within minutes,” Mr. Trump said of the alleged assault.     

He also said that someone at Bergdorf Goodman, a “very busy store,” would have heard or seen something if the assault had happened. “It’s the most ridiculous, disgusting story. It’s just made up,” the former president said in the video.      

During closing arguments, Mr. Tacopina explained why the former president refused to put up any defense or call any witnesses — because it is a “made up” story that occurred on an unknown date, it would be impossible for Mr. Trump to prove that he did not actually assault Ms. Carroll.

The New York Sun

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