NYC jury finds Donald Trump sexually abused E. Jean Carroll, awards her $5 million in civil rape case
NEW YORK — A jury Tuesday found Donald Trump liable for sexually abusing and defaming writer E. Jean Carroll in his closely watched bombshell civil rape trial in Manhattan.
The jury awarded Carroll $5 million in damages, almost the twice the amount expected.
“I filed this lawsuit against Donald Trump to clear my name and to get my life back,” Carroll said in a statement following the verdict. “Today, the world finally knows the truth. This victory is not just for me but for every woman who has suffered because she was not believed.”
The panel of six men and three women delivered their verdict at around 3 p.m. in Manhattan federal court, less than three hours after getting the case. The jury determined Carroll’s lawyers did not prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Trump raped her.
The verdict comes more than five years after Carroll first levied sexual assault allegations against then-President Trump, who responded at the time by calling her a liar from the White House and proclaiming she was not his “type.” Carroll testified Trump raped her in a dressing room in Bergdorf Goodman after a chance encounter.
Trump didn’t attend or testify at his trial. His lawyers didn’t put on a defense case, relying instead on trying to discredit Carroll’s account by aggressively cross-examining her and her witnesses.
Outside the courthouse, Trump’s lawyer Joe Tacopina said the verdict proved Trump’s “firm belief” that he could not get a fair trial in his home state. Tacopina, who said he would appeal the verdict, said the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Trump boasted about being able to “grab women...,” shouldn’t have been allowed in evidence.
“Strange verdict,” Tacopina said. “This was a rape case all along, and the jury rejected that, but made other findings, so we’ll obviously be appealing those other findings ... (Trump) is firm in his belief, as many people are, that he cannot get a fair trial in New York City based on the jury pool. I think one could argue that that’s probably an accurate assessment based on what happened today.
The verdict adds to Trump’s mounting legal woes. He was recently indicted in the Stormy Daniels hush money probe and is facing investigations over election issues in Georgia and classified documents found at his home in Florida.
Trump’s reaction to the verdict was swift.
“I have absolutely no idea who this woman is,” he wrote on Truth Social. “This verdict is a disgrace — a continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time!”
Carroll spent almost three days on the witness stand, where she emotionally testified about being attacked in a changing room inside Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue between the fall of 1995 and spring of 1996. Carroll’s current lawsuit was the first filed under the Adult Survivors Act, historic legislation lifting the statute of limitations to bring sex assault claims for one year.
She told the jury Trump recognized her when they passed each other in the store’s revolving doors and asked her to help him pick out a present for an unknown woman. After milling around the store, Carroll said Trump suggested they visit the sixth-floor lingerie department, where he insisted Carroll try on a bodysuit.
Carroll, a daytime TV host who wrote a popular advice column for Elle magazine about love and sex, said she thought the happenstance encounter was a great New York moment that would make a good story. She wanted to make Trump try on the lingerie over his pants.
The 79-year-old said the situation turned dark once they got to the dressing rooms and Trump closed the door, pushing her against a wall and kissing her without consent. She described trying to throw “cold water” on the situation by nervously laughing. But she said an unrelenting Trump became increasingly violent, molesting her with his hand before pulling down her tights and raping her.
“I was almost too frightened to think if I was afraid or not. I was stamping. My whole reason for being alive in that moment was to get out of that room,” Carroll testified on Apr. 26. “(His) fingers went into my vagina, which was extremely painful, extremely painful. It was a horrible feeling because he curved, he put his hand inside of me and curved his finger. As I’m sitting here today, I can still feel it. (...) Then he inserted his penis.”
In his cross-examination, Tacopina hammered Carroll on why she didn’t scream during the alleged assault or call the police.
Raising her voice as she fought back tears, Carroll told Tacopina his questions underscored why many women don’t report their abusers when they are a victim of rape or sexual assault.
“Women who come forward — one of the reasons they don’t come forward is because they’re always asked, ‘Why didn’t you scream?’ Some women scream, some women don’t,” Carroll told Tacopina. “It keeps women silent.”
Raising her voice as she fought back tears, Carroll told Tacopina, “I’m telling you, he raped me whether I screamed or not!”
Carroll’s second claim, which accused Trump of defamation, was based on an Oct. 12, 2022, Truth Social post in which Trump said he didn’t know Carroll and that her allegations were “a hoax and a lie.” Trump alleged Carroll had changed her story from beginning to end in promoting her book in a CNN interview, which Carroll said caused her emotional and professional harm.
Carroll’s lawyers presented 11 witnesses, including two friends she confided in about the alleged assault, Lisa Birnbach and Carol Martin, who Trump’s lawyers alleged concocted a scheme with her to destroy Trump politically.
Two of 26 women who have accused Trump of sexual assault, Jessica Leeds and Natasha Stoyoff, testified, as did store employees from Bergdorf Goodman, her sister, and experts in trauma and reputation harm.
In her closing argument, Carroll’s lawyer Roberta Kaplan told the jury the testimony from Leeds and Stoynoff proved the attack on Carroll was part of a pattern.
“He makes friendly chit-chat with a woman he finds he is attracted to in a semi-public space, where they wouldn’t expect to be attacked. He suddenly lunges at her. He pounces. He kisses. He grabs; he doesn’t wait,” Kaplan said.
“(If) a woman later speaks up, he lies about it. He demeans her. He insults her. He says she is too ugly to assault.”
Leeds, 81, told the jury Trump assaulted her on a flight to New York City in 1979 when she wound up seated next to him in first class. The retired stockbroker said he grabbed her breasts and slid his hand up her skirt.
Leeds testified that she bumped into Trump a couple of years later while distributing table numbers at a gala at Saks Fifth Avenue.
Stoynoff told the jury on May 3 that Trump sexually assaulted her at Mar-a-Lago on Dec. 27, 2005, when she was on assignment for People magazine covering his first wedding anniversary.
During a day of interviewing Trump and his new wife, Melania, Stoynoff said Trump led her to an empty room on the premises to show her a painting, where he cornered and started kissing her against her will after closing the door.
“I’m looking around, I’m thinking, ‘Wow, really nice room, wonder what he wants to show me.’ And he — I hear the door shut behind me. And by the time I turn around he has his hands on my shoulders and he pushes me against the wall and starts kissing me, holding me against the wall,” Stoynoff testified.
Trump passed up multiple opportunities to take the stand. The final chance was offered last week when Judge Lewis Kaplan learned of his comments in Ireland vowing to cut the trip short to “confront” Carroll at the trial.
Trump’s lawyer alleged a conspiracy, telling the jury that Carroll had fabricated the assault to sell a book, drawing inspiration from a 2012 episode of “Law & Order SVU” featuring dialogue about a fantasy rape scene inside Bergdorf Goodman.