NEW YORK – A jury found Donald Trump responsible for sexually abusing advice columnist E. Jean Carroll in 1996 and awarded him $5 million in a lawsuit that could haunt the former president in his campaign to win back the White House.
The verdict was announced in federal court in New York City on the first day of jury deliberations.
Jurors rejected Carroll’s claims that she was raped, but found Trump to have sexually assaulted her.RELATED
Hours earlier, US District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan read the instructions on the law to a nine-person jury before the panel began discussing Carroll’s assault and slander charges shortly before noon.
Trump, who did not attend the trial, has insisted that he never sexually assaulted Carroll.
After losing the trial against the writer, Trump said he did not know her and considered the jury’s verdict a “disgraceful”.
“I have no idea who this woman is. This verdict is a shame, the continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time, ”wrote the businessman in a brief message written entirely in capital letters on his social network, Truth Social, minutes after the news broke.
Kaplan told jurors that the first question on the verdict form was to decide whether they believe there is more than a 50% chance that Trump would rape Carroll inside a store dressing room. If they answered yes, then they would decide whether compensatory and punitive damages should be awarded.
If they answered no to the question about rape, then they could decide whether Trump subjected her to lesser forms of assault that involved sexual contact without her consent or forcible touching to demean her or satisfy his sexual desire. If they answered yes to any of those questions, they will decide if damages are appropriate.
Addressing the defamation claims stemming from a statement Trump made on social media last October, Kaplan said jurors must be guided by a higher legal standard: clear and compelling evidence.
He said they would have to agree that it was “highly likely” that Trump’s statement was false and made maliciously with deliberate intent to hurt or out of hate or ill will with reckless disregard for Carroll’s rights.
Meanwhile, Trump posted a new message on social media, complaining that he is now awaiting the jury’s decision “on a false indictment.” He said he is “not allowed to speak or defend himself, even when tough journalists yell questions at me about this case.”
Trump said he will not speak until after the trial, “but he will appeal my unconstitutional silencing…regardless of the outcome!”
Trump never attended the trial, which is in its third week, and declined an invitation to testify, which the judge extended over the weekend even after Trump’s attorney, Joe Tacopina, said Thursday his client would not testify. .
Tacopina told jurors in closing arguments Monday that Carroll’s account is too implausible to believe. She said she made it up to boost sales of a 2019 memoir in which she first publicly revealed claims about him disparaging Trump for political reasons.
Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, cited excerpts from Trump’s October statement and his notorious comments about a 2005 “Access Hollywood” video in which he says celebrities can grab women between the legs without asking.
She urged the jury to believe her client.
“He didn’t even bother to show up here in person,” Kaplan said. She said 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,” he said. “He knows what he did. He knows that he sexually assaulted E. Jean Carroll”.
Carroll, 79, testified that he had a chance meeting with Trump at the Bergdorf Goodman store across the street from Trump Tower. She said it was a light-hearted interaction in which they mocked trying on a piece of lingerie before Trump turned violent inside a dressing room.
Tacopina told the jury that there was no reason to call Trump as a witness when Carroll can’t even remember when his encounter with Trump occurred.
He told jurors that Carroll fabricated his claims after learning about a 2012 “Law & Order” episode in which a woman is raped in the dressing room of the lingerie section of a Bergdorf Goodman store.
“They modeled their secret scheme on an episode of one of the most popular shows on television,” he said of Carroll.
Two of Carroll’s friends testified that she told them about the encounter with Trump shortly after it happened, many years before the “Law & Order” episode aired.
This is the first time that Trump has been convicted after leaving the country’s presidency, although last January his company, the Trump Organization, was sentenced to pay $1.61 million for a tax evasion scheme.