Donald Trump civil case: Jury finds former president sexually abused and defamed writer E Jean Carroll

Donald Trump civil case: Jury finds former president sexually abused and defamed writer E Jean Carroll

Donald Trump sexually abused magazine writer E Jean Carroll in the 1990s and then defamed her by branding her a liar, jurors in a civil case have found.

The nine-member jury in Manhattan federal court in New York awarded about $5 million (£3.9 million) in compensatory and punitive damages to Ms Carroll on Tuesday.

The jury deliberated for just under three hours following the civil trial.

They rejected the former US president's denial that he assaulted Ms Carroll and ruled in her favor, but did reject her claim that Trump had raped her.

Ms Carroll said her victory is “not just for me but for every woman who has suffered because she was not believed”.

The verdict is a major blow to the former president as he seeks to be re-elected to the White House in 2024.

He branded the verdict “a disgrace” as he reacted on his Truth Social platform calling it a “continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time” and saying "I have absolutely no idea who this woman is.”

Mr Trump will appeal, said his spokesperson Steven Cheung. The ex-President will not have to pay so long as the case is on appeal.

Ms Carroll held hands with her lawyers as the verdict was read. She left the courthouse with her lawyer Roberta Kaplan, smiling and wearing sunglasses, and entered a car without speaking to reporters.

Donald Trump has promised to appeal the verdict (Truth Social)
Donald Trump has promised to appeal the verdict (Truth Social)

Mr Trump is the front-runner in opinion polls for the Republican presidential nomination and analysts predict that the civil verdict will have little impact on his core supporters.

“The folks that are anti-Trump are going to remain that way, the core pro-Trump voters are not going to change, and the ambivalent ones I just don’t think are going to be moved by this type of thing,” said Charlie Gerow, a Republican strategist in Pennsylvania.

Any negative impact is likely to be small and limited to suburban women and moderate Republicans, he said.

Lis Smith, a Democratic strategist, said it remained to be seen whether the verdict in Carroll’s case would make Mr Trump “unpalatable” to Republican voters beyond his base.

Mr Trump has cited the Carroll trial in campaign fundraising emails as evidence of what he portrays as a Democratic plot to damage him politically.

His poll numbers improved after he was charged in New York in March with falsifying business records over a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels before his victory in the 2016 presidential election.

That indictment, filed in New York state court, made him the first US president past or present to be criminally charged. Trump has pleaded not guilty and said the charges are politically motivated.

The case

Ms Carroll, 79, testified during the civil trial that Trump, 76, raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in Manhattan in either 1995 or 1996, then harmed her reputation by writing in an October 2022 post on his Truth Social platform that her claims were a “complete con job,” “a hoax” and “a lie”.

Jurors were tasked with deciding whether Mr Trump raped, sexually abused or forcibly touched Ms Carroll, any one of which would satisfy her claim of battery. They were separately asked if Mr Trump defamed Ms Carroll.

Because this was a civil case, Mr Trump faces no criminal consequences. Ms Carroll was seeking unspecified monetary damages.

Mr Trump’s legal team opted not to present a defence, gambling that jurors would find that Ms Carroll had failed to make a persuasive case.

Mr Trump had said Ms Carroll, a former Elle magazine columnist and a registered Democrat, made up the allegations to try to increase sales of her 2019 memoir and to hurt him politically.

Because the case was in civil court, Ms Carroll was required to establish her rape claim by "a preponderance of the evidence" - meaning more likely than not - rather than the higher standard used in criminal cases of "proof beyond a reasonable doubt."

Ms Carroll had to show “clear and convincing evidence” to prove her defamation claim.

The trial featured testimony from two women who said Mr Trump sexually assaulted them decades ago.

E. Jean Carroll  leaves the Manhattan court house (Getty Images)
E. Jean Carroll leaves the Manhattan court house (Getty Images)

Former People magazine reporter Natasha Stoynoff told jurors that Mr Trump cornered her at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida in 2005 and forcibly kissed her for a “few minutes” until a butler interrupted the alleged assault.

Another woman, Jessica Leeds, testified that Mr Trump kissed her, groped her and put his hand up her skirt on a flight in 1979.

Jurors also heard excerpts from a 2005 Access Hollywood video in which Mr Trump says women let him “grab 'em by the p***y”.

“Historically, that's true, with stars ... if you look over the last million years,” Mr Trump said in an October 2022 video deposition played in court. He has repeatedly denied allegations of sexual misconduct.

Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, told jurors during closing arguments on Monday that the 2005 video was proof that Mr Trump had assaulted Ms Carroll and other women.

The federal trial began on April 25. Citing the uniqueness of a civil case against a former president, the judge decided that identities the jurors would be kept secret.

A protester outside court following the verdict (Getty Images)
A protester outside court following the verdict (Getty Images)

Ms Carroll testified that she bumped into Mr Trump at Bergdorf's while he was shopping for a gift for another woman. Ms Carroll said she agreed to help Mr Trump pick out a gift and the two looked at lingerie before he coaxed her into a dressing room, slammed her head into a wall and raped her.

Ms Carroll testified she could not remember the precise date or year the alleged rape occurred.

Ms Carroll faced questions from Mr Trump’s legal team attacking the plausibility of her account including why she had never reported the matter to police or screamed during the alleged incident.

Ms Carroll told jurors she decided to break her silence in 2017 after rape allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein prompted scores of women to come forward with accounts of sexual violence by powerful men. She went public with her account while Mr Trump was still president.

She said Mr Trump’s public denials wrecked her career and instigated a campaign of vicious online harassment by his supporters including various threatening messages and social media posts.

While Mr Trump did not testify at the trial, a video clip from the October 2022 deposition showed him mistaking Ms Carroll for one of his former wives in a black-and-white photo among several people at an event.

“It’s Marla,” Mr Trump said in the deposition, referring to his second wife Marla Maples. Previously Mr Trump had said he could not have raped Ms Carroll because she was not “his type”.