E Jean Carroll v Donald Trump: how the civil court case unfolded | Donald Trump

When E Jean Carroll, a magazine writer, came forward to describe how she was sexually assaulted by Donald Trump in a Manhattan department store in 1996, Trump called her claim “a complete con job” and accused her of making it up to sell books. But on Tuesday, a New York jury – in a civil, rather than criminal, case – disagreed. They found that he was liable for sexual abuse and defamation – and ordered him to pay her $5m (£4m) in damages.

The jury did not find that Trump had raped Carroll, as she alleged. But it said he was shown by a preponderance of the evidence to have sexually abused her, and then told a malicious falsehood about her that did serious damage to her reputation. After years of credible allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump, Tuesday’s verdict is the first time that a court has said that such a claim has been proven to be true.

Here’s a summary of the case.

How E Jean Carroll came forward

Carroll, a writer and advice columnist, first went public with her accusations against Trump in 2019, in the aftermath of the revelations about Harvey Weinstein that sparked the #MeToo movement. In a book excerpt published in New York magazine, Carroll wrote that after a chance encounter at the Bergdorf Goodman department store, Trump forced her against a wall and pulled down her tights before pressing his fingers into her vagina and raping her.

She had never come forward before, she said, having seen the treatment handed out to other victims and concluding that it “never sounded like much fun”. And, she said, “I run the risk of making him more popular by revealing what he did.”

Because the statute of limitations had expired, there was no prospect of Trump facing criminal charges over her allegations. But last year, New York state passed the Adult Survivors Act, allowing victims a one-year window to file a sexual assault lawsuit over older cases. That is how the case wound up in a Manhattan courtroom for the last two weeks.

The case against Trump – and what the jury said

A courtroom sketch of E. Jean Carroll watching as Donald Trump’s video deposition is played in court.Pin
A courtroom sketch of E Jean Carroll watching as Donald Trump’s video deposition is played in court. Photograph: Jane Rosenberg/Reuters

Because the trial in New York was a civil rather than criminal case, Trump faces only a financial sanction and has not been convicted of anything. Carroll’s lawsuit sought damages for battery – a technical term for her claims that he “forcibly raped and groped” her – as well as for defamation after he responded to her 2019 allegations by calling her a liar. A summary of the key evidence heard by the jury is here.

Carroll told the jury: “I’m here because Donald Trump raped me, and when I wrote about it, he said it didn’t happen. He lied and shattered my reputation. I’m here to try and get my life back.”

The jury was asked to reach a decision on the basis of the “preponderance of evidence” standard that applies in civil cases – that is, that the claims were more likely to be true than false. (You can see how her lawyer defined that here.) The judge told them to put “beyond reasonable doubt” out of their minds.

The jury of six men and three women found that Carroll had not proved rape by that standard. But they said that she had shown that Trump had sexually abused her, and that she was injured by his conduct.

They also found that Trump defamed her by claiming that her allegations were a hoax. They ordered him to pay her just over $2m in damages over sexual abuse, and almost $3m over the defamation.

Carroll’s evidence

In her testimony, Carroll gave a detailed account of the incident, and how it has affected her life. Ever since, she said, she has found it impossible even to smile at a man she was attracted to, adding: “It left me unable to ever have a romantic life again.”

Carroll’s case was bolstered by evidence from two friends of hers confirming her account that she had immediately told them about the incident. Another significant plank of Carroll’s case was the evidence from two other women – Natasha Stoynoff and Jessica Leeds – who say that they were sexually assaulted by Trump,, and described incidents of forcible groping and kissing 36 years apart.

The jury were also played the infamous Access Hollywood tape, made public during the 2016 election campaign, in which Trump said: “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything … Grab ‘em by the pussy.” Carroll’s lawyer argued that the evidence revealed that Trump was a “predator” with a “playbook” for sexual assault.

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Trump’s evidence

Donald Trump’s lawyer, Joseph Tacopina.Pin
Donald Trump’s lawyer, Joseph Tacopina. Photograph: Louis Lanzano/UPI/Shutterstock

Despite claiming that Carroll was the perpetrator of a malicious hoax against him, and saying on a visit to Scotland that he was “going to go back and I’m going to confront this woman”, Trump did not testify in the case. Nor did his lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, call any witnesses. Tacopina claimed that this was because “Donald Trump doesn’t have a story to tell here, other than to say it’s a lie”.

While Trump didn’t appear in person, the jury did see footage from a deposition he gave in the case. (You can watch it here.) He denied Carroll’s accusations by saying that she was “not his type” – but also mistook her in a photograph for his ex-wife, Marla Maples. Carroll’s lawyer Roberta Kaplan – who Trump volunteered was also “not his type” – suggested that his confusion undermined his claim that he was not attracted to Carroll.

On his remarks in the Access Hollywood tape that famous men can grab women’s genitals, Trump said that “historically, that’s true with stars … unfortunately or fortunately”, and said that he considers himself a star. Kaplan said he had in effect been “a witness against himself”.

When cross-examining Carroll, Tacopina took an approach that Chris McGreal wrote had “​​raised more than a few eyebrows in the legal community and left some spectators in court aghast”, casting doubt on the plausibility of her evidence not to have screamed or have called the police. Carroll replied: “One of the reasons women don’t come forward is because they’re always asked: ‘Why didn’t you scream?’ Some women scream. Some women don’t. It keeps women silent.”

The consequences for Trump’s political career

In 2016, Trump famously boasted: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” Now a version of that question appears central to his prospects of another shot at the White House.

In the aftermath of the verdict, Trump’s supporters variously focused on the fact that he had not been found liable for rape, ridiculed the standard of proof applied in the case (as is quite typical in civil suits), and made dark claims of political conspiracy. Trump himself claimed that he got “treated very badly by the Clinton-appointed judge”, called the case “a continuation of the greatest witchhunt of all time”, and said he had “no idea who this woman is”.

Trump is likely to appeal, though most legal analysts see few plausible grounds to do so. The first live forum in which he is likely to face questions over the case comes on Wednesday, in a town hall event for CNN.

Given Trump already has a variety of other legal cases hanging over him, and has faced multiple allegations of sexual misconduct in the past, it seems unlikely that his avowed supporters will see much in the verdicts to persuade them to change their minds. Even his rivals for the nomination will probably perform verbal gymnastics to avoid directly criticising him over the outcome, lest they alienate the Republican base.

There was “no chorus of Democrats and Republicans calling for Trump, 76, to drop out of the primary”, David Smith writes in his analysis. Trump is seven points ahead of Joe Biden in the most recent poll. But there is already plenty of electoral evidence that swing voters have been put off by the allegations that have long been attached to him – and the jury’s finding in this case is arguably the most concrete proof of bad character that he has ever had to face.

( Information from politico.com was used in this report. Also if you have any problem of this article or if you need to remove this articles, please email here and we will delete this immediately. [email protected] )

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