NEW YORK – A jury found Donald Trump liable Tuesday for sex abuse advice columnist E. Jean Carroll in 1996, awarding her $5 million in a ruling that could haunt the former president as he fights to win back the White House .
The verdict was announced in a federal courtroom in New York City on the first day of jury deliberations. Jurors rejected Carroll’s claims that she was raped, but held Trump accountable for sexually abusing her.
Hours earlier, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan read briefs on the law to the nine-person jury before the jury began hearing Carroll’s battery and defamation charges just before noon.
Trump, who did not attend the trial, insisted he never sexually assaulted Carroll or knew her.
Kaplan told jurors the first question on the verdict form was whether they think there is a more than 50% chance that Trump raped Carroll inside a store dressing room. If they answered yes, they would decide whether to award compensatory or punitive damages.
If they answered no to the rape question, they could then decide whether Trump subjected her to minor forms of assault involving sexual contact without her consent or forced touching to degrade her or gratify her sexual desire. If they answered yes to any of these questions, they will decide whether damages are appropriate.
On the defamation allegations stemming from a statement Trump made on social media last October, Kaplan said jurors needed to be guided by a higher legal standard: clear, compelling evidence.
He said they should have agreed that it was “highly probable” that Trump’s statement was false and was made maliciously with deliberate intent to hurt or out of hatred 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 charge.” He said that “he’s not allowed to speak or defend me, even though the hard-nosed journalists are yelling questions about this case at me.”
Trump said he would not speak until after the trial, “but will appeal my silence unconstitutional … 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 through the weekend even after Trump’s attorney, Joe Tacopina, said Thursday that the your client would not testify.
Tacopina told the closing jury on Monday that Carroll’s account is too far-fetched to be believed. She said she made it up to fuel sales of a 2019 memoir in which she publicly disclosed her claims about her for the first time and to disparage Trump for political reasons.
Carroll’s attorney Roberta Kaplan cited excerpts from Trump’s October deposition and his infamous comments on a 2005 statement Log in to Hollywood video where she said celebrities can grab women between the legs without asking.
He urged jurors to believe his client.
“He hasn’t even bothered to show up here in person,” Kaplan said. He said much of what he said in his deposition and public statements “actually supports our side of the case.”
“In a very real sense, Donald Trump is a witness against himself,” he said. “You know what he did. He knows he sexually assaulted E. Jean Carroll.
Carroll, 79, testified that he had a chance meeting with Trump at the Bergdorf Goodman store across from Trump Tower. He said it was a lighthearted interaction where they teased each other to try on a piece of lingerie before Trump turned violent inside a locker room.
Tacopina told jurors there was no reason to call Trump as a witness when Carroll can’t even remember when his meeting with Trump took place.
She told the jury that Carroll fabricated her claims after hearing about a 2012 “Law and 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 plan after an episode of one of the most popular shows on television,” she said of Carroll.
Two of Carroll’s friends testified that he told them about meeting Trump shortly after it happened, many years before the Law and order episode aired.
Larry Neumeister, Associated Press