Trump seeks to stop second E. Jean Carroll lawsuit

Stephanie Keith

Lawyers for Donald Trump are trying to block a long-stalled defamation suit by writer E. Jean Carroll by using her successful $5 million verdict in a different case she won against the former president.

The filing in federal court in Manhattan argues that Trump could not have defamed Carroll by denying her rape accusation in the pending case because a jury in the other case found him liable for sexually abusing her but not rape.

The “operative question in this case is, and has always been, whether a rape occurred in the Bergdorf Goodman dressing room," the filing said, and the jury "found that one did not.”

Carroll alleges that Trump raped her in the Manhattan department store in the mid-1990s. She filed a battery and defamation suit over the rape allegation and Trump's post-presidency comments calling her claims a "con job" last year.

After a trial that featured live testimony from Carroll and videotaped deposition testimony from Trump, a jury last month awarded Carroll $2 million for the battery claim and $3 million for her defamation claim.

The battery claim included different elements, including one for rape and one for sexual abuse. Asked on its verdict sheet whether Carroll, 79, had proven “by a preponderance of the evidence” that “Mr. Trump raped Ms. Carroll,” the nine-person jury checked the box that said “no.” Asked whether Carroll had proven that “Mr. Trump sexually abused Ms. Carroll,” the jury checked the box that said “yes.”

Jurors did not speak to reporters to explain their decision. Carroll had testified she was attacked from behind and did not see how Trump penetrated her.

The case that went to trial was Carroll's second lawsuit against Trump.

The first alleged that Trump defamed Carroll when he was president by calling her claims a "hoax" and a "con job" when she went public in 2019.

That case — now identified in court papers as Carroll I — had been stalled in a Washington, D.C., federal appeals court over whether Trump was immune from liability because he was president at the time of the comments. The case was sent back to U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan — who presided over Carroll II — in April.

In a filing last month, Carroll's attorneys sought to amend the earlier lawsuit to add a new defamation claim after Trump trashed her as a “wack job” at a CNN town hall after the verdict last month.

The proposed amended suit also changed mentions of "rape" to "sexual abuse" or "sexual assault." Trump's filing notes the amended complaint removed 71 uses of the word "rape."

Trump lawyer Alina Habba said in a statement that Carroll was trying to "retrofit" her lawsuit "while blatantly ignoring the portion that undermines the viability of her claim."

"Faced with the Carroll II jury's rejection of her rape accusation, Ms. Carroll now seeks to remove nearly every reference of the word 'rape' in her complaint and abandon the narrative she has conveyed to the public for years," Habba said.

The Trump filing also urges the judge not to allow Carroll to add defamation claims stemming from the CNN town hall at which he called Carroll a "wack job" whom he'd never met.

The filing said Trump "neither denied nor misrepresented the jury’s verdict" during the town hall "but merely voiced his disagreement with the finding and restated his position — which he had asserted throughout the duration of the proceedings — that the claimed event never happened."

Carroll's lawyer Roberta Kaplan disputed Trump's contention that the earlier verdict hurt her case.

"Contrary to Donald Trump's latest arguments, the jury's verdict makes complete sense — because the jury believed E. Jean Carroll when she testified that Trump had sexually abused her, it concluded that Trump knowingly lied about Ms. Carroll when he later claimed otherwise," Kaplan said.

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