2nd woman testifies Trump sexually assaulted her
“All of a sudden, Trump decided to kiss me and grope me,” Jessica Leeds testified, adding, “It was out of the blue.”
NEW YORK CITY — A second woman took the witness stand Tuesday in the civil battery and defamation trial of former President Donald Trump and testified that he sexually assaulted her on a flight in 1979.
Lawyers for author E. Jean Carroll, who is suing Trump over claims that he raped her in a department store dressing room in the mid-1990s and then lied about it, called Jessica Leeds to testify about her encounter with Trump.
Leeds, 81, told the jury in the civil trial, being held at the Daniel Patrick Moynihan U.S. Courthouse in lower Manhattan, that she was 37 years old when Trump assaulted her. She recounted boarding the plane and taking her seat at the back of the coach when a flight attendant approached her and asked if she wanted to move up to first class.
“Yes, of course,” she recalled saying, eliciting some laughter from the courtroom.
In response to questions from plaintiff's attorney Michael Ferrara, Leeds described the layout of the first-class cabin, where she said there were two rows of seats, with two seats each on either side of the aisle. She said she was brought to an aisle seat in the first row. When she sat down, the man seated in the window seat introduced himself as Donald Trump.
“We shook hands,” she told the jury, noting that she didn’t see any other women sitting in first class.
Asked whether she knew who Trump was at the time, Leeds said she was living and working in Connecticut and was not aware of the social or real estate scene in New York.
She said she and Trump made light conversation, and that after a meal had been served and cleared away, their encounter took an unwelcome turn.
“All of a sudden, Trump decided to kiss me and grope me,” Leeds testified, adding, “It was out of the blue.”
She described Trump kissing her and grabbing her breasts, “like he had 40 zillion hands,” during what she described as “a tussle between the two of us.”
Leeds said she remembered thinking, “Where is the stewardess?” before realizing, “No one is going to help me.”
Trump continued his assault, Leeds testified, putting his hand up her skirt before she managed to wrestle free and walk back to her original seat in coach.
Asked whether she screamed or called to a flight attendant or anyone else during the encounter, Leeds said, “It never occurred to me to yell out.”
While the encounter “felt like forever,” all told it probably lasted “just a few seconds,” she told the jury.
Leeds testified that she didn’t report the incident to anyone on the plane, nor did she tell anyone about it when she went to work the following day.
“I didn’t tell anybody at work because I didn’t think they’d be interested in my experience,” she said, explaining that during that time, in the workplace “men could get away with a lot.”
It was only when it became clear that Trump was planning to run for president in 2016 that, Leeds said, she decided to share her story.
“I thought he was not the kind of person we’d want as president,” she said.
Watching a 2016 debate moderated by Anderson Cooper during which Trump denied groping women incensed her, she testified. (Trump had previously, as on the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, boasted about groping women.)
“I was furious,” she said, “because I knew he was lying.” Trump has denied her allegations.
After moving to New York City in 1981, Leeds said she had another encounter with Trump at a gala for the Humane Society held at Saks Fifth Avenue department store. Tasked with giving out tickets to patrons, Leeds approached a table occupied by Trump and his then-wife Ivana.
“I remember you,” Leeds testified Trump told her, “You’re that c*nt from the airplane.”
Trump has denied the allegations made by Leeds, who was the second witness called to testify by Carroll’s attorneys on Tuesday. The first was Lisa Birnbach, a writer and friend of Carroll’s who was the first person Carroll says she called following the alleged attack at Bergdorf Goodman department store.
Birnbach corroborated Carroll’s account of events, including her reaction to what Carroll told her moments after exiting the store. “E. Jean, he raped you,” she testified that she told her friend while trying, unsuccessfully, to convince her to go to the police.
At her friend’s request, Birnbach said she didn’t tell anyone else about what Carroll had told her and never brought it up again. “I worked not to think about it,” she said. “I had made a promise ... so I buried it.”
Asked by plaintiff's attorney Shawn Crowley whether Carroll was her only friend in the mid-’90s to tell her about being assaulted by a man, Birnbach replied, “Hardly.”
“Many of my friends in the mid-’90s had been harassed, molested, propositioned by people they worked with or worked for,” she testified.
Asked why she was testifying, Birnbach responded, “I want the world to know she is telling the truth.”
During cross-examination, Trump attorney Perry Brandt questioned Birnbach’s political affiliations, noting her longtime support for Democrats and her outspoken criticism of Trump on a now-defunct podcast she hosted.
Birnbach responded that, despite her strong feelings about him, she would never lie in a media interview or perjure herself in court to destroy Trump’s political career, and emphasized that at the time of the alleged assault, Trump was not in politics.
“Donald Trump in 1996 was a well-known New York person. He was not in politics. He was a guy who liked attention. He was also a known womanizer,” Birnbach told the jury. “My friend wasn’t raped by a president. She was assaulted by a guy, a real estate guy.”
Carroll’s lawyers told the judge Tuesday that they would likely rest their case on Thursday. The defense is expected to call just one witness, a psychiatrist, and Trump’s lawyers said Tuesday that the former president would not be making an appearance in court to testify in his own defense.