NEW YORK (May 10): A New York jury found Donald Trump liable Tuesday for sexually abusing and defaming an American former magazine columnist and ordered the ex-president to pay her US$5 million in damages.
The nine jurors rejected E. Jean Carroll’s accusation of rape but unanimously upheld her other complaints in the closely watched civil trial, following less than three hours of deliberations.
It marks the first time Trump has faced legal consequences over a string of sexual assault allegations dating back decades — and the former leader immediately rejected the verdict as a “disgrace.”
Carroll, 79, sued Trump last year, alleging that he raped her in the changing room of the luxury Bergdorf Goodman store on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue in 1996.
The former columnist for Elle magazine also claimed that Trump defamed her when he called her “a complete con job” after she went public with the allegation in 2019.
Trump, the 76-year-old frontrunner for the Republican nomination in next year’s presidential election, called her case a “hoax” and “a lie.”
The jury determined that Carroll had proved sexual abuse — effectively sexual contact without consent — by a preponderance of the evidence and awarded her US$2 million.
The six men and three women on the jury also said Trump should pay Carroll nearly US$3 million for defamation.
Following the verdict, Carroll left the Manhattan federal court smiling but did not speak to reporters.
“We’re very happy,” said her lawyer, Roberta Kaplan.
Trump slammed the outcome on his social media platform Truth Social.
“I have absolutely no idea who this woman is,” he wrote, using all capital letters. “This verdict is a disgrace — a continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time.”
Trump’s 2024 campaign team said in a statement that the case was a “political endeavor” intended to derail Trump’s bid to regain the White House, and that he would appeal.
Carroll told the two-week-long civil trial that the assault had left her feeling “ashamed” and unable to have romantic relationships.
She said it took her more than 20 years to go public because she was “frightened” by Trump.
Her lawyers called to the witness stand two other women who testified that Trump sexually assaulted them decades ago.
Former businesswoman Jessica Leeds said that Trump groped her in the business class section of a flight in the United States in the 1970s.
Journalist Natasha Stoynoff said Trump kissed her without her consent during an interview at his Mar-a-Lago estate in 2005.
Around a dozen women accused Trump of sexual misconduct ahead of the 2016 election that sent him to the White House.
He has denied all the allegations and has never been prosecuted over any of them. No criminal case can stem from Carroll’s lawsuit.
Porn star case
Trump did not testify during the proceedings, nor did his defense team call any witnesses.
A video of a sworn deposition he gave in October was played to the jury. In it, Trump called Carroll “a liar” and “really sick person.”
His lawyers argued that Carroll invented the allegation “for money, for political reasons, and for status.”
She filed her lawsuit under a New York law that gave victims of sexual assault a one-year window to sue their alleged abusers decades after attacks may have occurred.
The burden of proof in civil proceedings is lower than in criminal trials cases when prosecutors must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
The case was one of several legal challenges threatening to complicate Trump’s bid to regain the presidency — although the Republican’s supporters have broadly stayed loyal to their champion up until now.
Last month, Trump pleaded not guilty to criminal charges related to a hush-money payment made to a porn star just before the 2016 vote — allegedly to cover up an affair.
Trump is also being investigated over his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the southern state of Georgia, his alleged mishandling of classified documents taken from the White House and his involvement in the storming of the US Capitol by his supporters on January 6, 2021. – AFP