A nine-member jury in Manhattan has found that Donald Trump sexually abused magazine writer E. Jean Carroll in the 1990s and then defamed her by branding her a liar.
Carroll, 79, testified during the civil trial that Trump, 76, raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in New York, then harmed her reputation by writing in an October 2022 post on his Truth Social platform that her claims were a “complete con job,” “a hoax” and “a lie.”
After deliberating for just under three hours, the jury rejected Trump’s denial that he assaulted Carroll and ruled in her favour.
They awarded about $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages to Carroll, although her rape claim was thrown out.
Hours earlier, US District Judge Lewis A Kaplan read instructions on the law to the nine-person jury before the panel began discussing Ms Carroll’s allegations of battery and defamation.
Mr Trump, who did not attend the trial, has insisted he never sexually assaulted Ms Carroll or even knew her.
Judge Kaplan told jurors the first question on the verdict form was to decide whether they think there is more than a 50% chance that Mr Trump raped Ms Carroll in a store dressing room. If they answered yes, they would then decide whether compensatory and punitive damages should be awarded.
If they answered no on the rape question, they could then decide if Mr Trump subjected her to lesser forms of assault involving sexual contact without her consent or forcible touching to degrade her or gratify his sexual desire. If they answered yes on either of those questions, they would decide if damages are appropriate.
On defamation claims stemming from a statement Mr Trump made on social media last October, Judge Kaplan said jurors needed to be guided by a higher legal standard — clear and convincing evidence.
He said they would have to agree it was “highly probable” that Mr Trump’s statement was false and was made maliciously with deliberate intent to injure or out of hatred or ill will with reckless disregard for Ms Carroll’s rights.
Meanwhile, Mr Trump posted a new message on social media, complaining that he was awaiting the jury’s decision “on a False Accusation”. He said he was “not allowed to speak or defend myself, even as hard nosed reporters scream questions about this case at me”.
He said he would not speak until after the trial, “but will appeal the Unconstitutional silencing of me … no matter the outcome!”
Mr Trump never attended the trial and rejected an invitation to give evidence, which the judge extended through the weekend even after Trump layer Joe Tacopina said on Thursday that his client would not testify.
Mr Tacopina told the jury in closing arguments on Monday that Ms Carroll’s account was too far-fetched to be believed, claiming she made it up to fuel sales of a 2019 memoir in which she first publicly revealed her allegations and to disparage Mr Trump for political reasons.
Ms Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, cited excerpts from Mr Trump’s October deposition and his notorious comments in a 2005 video in which he said celebrities can grab women between the legs without asking.
She urged jurors to believe her client.
“He didn’t even bother to show up here in person,” Ms Kaplan said, adding that much of what he said in his deposition and in public statements “actually supports our side of the case”.
“In a very real sense, Donald Trump is a witness against himself,” she said. “He knows what he did. He knows that he sexually assaulted E Jean Carroll.”
Ms Carroll, 79, told the court that she had a chance encounter with Mr Trump at the Bergdorf Goodman store across the street from Trump Tower in New York. She said it was a light-hearted interaction in which they teased each other about trying on a piece of lingerie before Mr Trump became violent inside a dressing room.
Mr Tacopina told jurors there was no reason to call Mr Trump as a witness when Ms Carroll could not even recall when her encounter with Mr Trump happened.
He told the jury Ms Carroll made up her claims after hearing about a 2012 episode of TV show Law And Order in which a woman is raped in the dressing room of the lingerie section of a Bergdorf Goodman store.
“They modelled their secret scheme on an episode of one of the most popular shows on television,” he said.
Two of Ms Carroll’s friends said she told them about the encounter with Mr Trump shortly after it happened, many years before the Law And Order episode aired.
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