Trump liable for sexual abuse, defamation; ordered to pay E. Jean Carroll $5 million
A federal jury in New York found former President Donald Trump liable for battery and defamation in a civil trial stemming from allegations he raped the writer E. Jean Carroll in a department store dressing room in the mid-1990s.
She was awarded $5 million total in damages.
The jury, made up of six men and three women, got the case earlier Tuesday and deliberated for less than three hours. The jury's decision had to be unanimous. In closing arguments, Carroll's attorney Roberta Kaplan reminded the jury that for the battery charge, "all you need is that it is more probable than not" that Trump attacked Carroll to find him liable, which is a much lower standard than the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard applied in criminal trials.
The jury found Trump liable for sexual abuse, but not rape, and also found that he defamed Carroll.
After the verdict, Trump posted on Truth Social: "I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHO THIS WOMAN IS. THIS VERDICT IS A DISGRACE - A CONTINUATION OF THE GREATEST WITCH HUNT OF ALL TIME!"
In two videos posted to his Truth Social account later Wednesday night, Trump called the verdict a "disgrace" and a "sham" and said that he and his legal team will be "appealing this decision."
Before Judge Lewis Kaplan discharged the jurors, who remained anonymous throughout the trial, he thanked them and told them they are now free to speak publicly about their service. However, he advised them against doing so. If they do, he barred them from identifying any of their peers on the panel.
As the jurors exited the courtroom one last time, it appeared none of them made eye contact with Carroll on their way out. After the jurors had gone, Carroll's attorneys embraced her. Trump was not in the courtroom for the verdict or any of the trial.
During the eight-day trial, attorneys for Carroll pressed a case to the jury laying out how her allegations fit a pattern, or "modus operandi," for Trump. In addition to witnesses who said Carroll confided in them after the incident, the jury heard from two other women who described Trump suddenly turning casual confrontations into sexual misconduct. They also watched the "Access Hollywood" video clip in which Trump could be heard crudely describing grabbing women by their genitals.
Attorneys for Trump did not call any witnesses and he did not testify in the trial. They argued Carroll and the 10 other witnesses her team called were conspiring to tarnish a former president out of hatred for him.
Ahead of the verdict on Tuesday morning, Trump posted on Truth Social that he was "not allowed to speak or defend myself, even as hard nosed reporters scream questions about this case at me."
Trump was permitted to testify in his own defense, but chose not to. Jurors were shown Trump's videotaped deposition from October in which he repeatedly denied the accusations.
Carroll accused Trump of assaulting and raping her in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in New York City in the mid-1990s, and then defaming her after she published her account in 2019. Trump, who has claimed he never met Carroll and "she's not my type," forcefully denied her accusations.
His statements about Carroll were core to her defamation claim. The jury was shown a late-1980s photo that appears to depict Trump and Carroll in conversation with their then-spouses. They also watched the moment in Trump's videotaped deposition when he was shown the photo and incorrectly identified Carroll as his ex-wife Marla Maples. Defense attorney Roberta Kaplan argued it was proof Carroll was indeed Trump's "type."
After Trump was told of mistaking the women during his deposition, he said the photo was "blurry."
Carroll testified during the trial, saying she bumped into Trump while exiting the store one evening. She said Trump recognized her, saying "Hey, you're that advice lady," referring to a magazine column she wrote for nearly three decades. She said she replied, "Hey, you're that real estate tycoon."
Carroll, then 52, said Trump, then 50, wanted advice on a gift purchase for a girl. She described pleasant, "joshing" banter as they perused the store, even after he suggested they go to the lingerie department.
Carroll, who wrote for "Saturday Night Live" in the 1980s, said the encounter seemed like a comedic scene, until things took a dark turn when they went to a dressing room.
Carroll said Trump pushed her against the wall, her head slamming against it. She said Trump forcefully penetrated her with his hand, causing severe pain, and then penetrated her with his penis.
Carroll said she managed to force her knee between them, pushing him away before leaving as fast as she could.
She said she told two other people about the alleged attack soon after, her friends Lisa Birnbach and Carol Martin. Both were called to testify during the trial, delivering testimony that largely matched Carroll's recollection.
Trump attorney Joe Tacopina showed jurors emails and text messages between Carroll, Martin and Birnbach that appeared to show their animosity to Trump, who was then the president, as the defense tried to portray a politically motivated effort by the trio to use Carroll's story to tarnish him.
Tacopina laid out the case as one in which Trump had "no story to tell," because he said Carroll's claim was entirely made up. In her closing arguments, Kaplan said the jury had to decide who was telling the truth: "the nonstop liar" Trump, or 11 people who testified under oath on Carroll's behalf.
Ultimately, the jury believed her.
What is the difference between sexual battery and rape?
The jury chose to go with sexual battery instead of rape, potentially for a variety of reasons, CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman explained.
Klieman defined sexual battery as "a forcible touching, plus more."
One possible reason the jury chose sexual battery over rape is they came to a "compromise" about what actually happened, Klieman explained. Klieman said Carroll was very "emphatic" about a finger, and what that felt like.
"In many jurisdictions, that kind of penetration of the vagina by a finger would also be considered rape, but perhaps this jury felt differently," she said. "There is no doubt that they saw and heard enough to say, 'Well perhaps it wasn't rape for all kinds of extraneous reasons,' but nonetheless they felt that that, one question down, they could find it a sexual abuse. They didn't go further down the list of the judge's "lesser" included offenses, as we lawyers would say."
Editor's note: A line in this story has been updated to correct a reference to the jury's verdict. They found Trump liable for sexual abuse, not sexual assault.
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