Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
court appearances

E. Jean Carroll Beats Donald Trump

A jury found him liable for sexual abuse and defamation.

Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

A Manhattan jury swiftly reached a verdict in E. Jean Carroll’s civil rape trial against Donald Trump, holding the former president liable for sexual abuse and defamation against the writer, and awarding her $5 million in damages. The jury rejected Carroll’s claim that Trump raped her.

Carroll first accused Trump of attacking her in New York Magazine in 2019 and over the past two weeks, her attorneys presented evidence in the civil suit that Trump sexually assaulted her. Other witnesses testified about how Carroll had disclosed the experience with Trump at the time, and two additional women testified that Trump had victimized them years earlier. Trump and his attorney accused Carroll of lying, making up the story in order to damage him politically. An attorney for Trump said that he plans to appeal.

The jury took less than three hours to deliberate on Tuesday, after Judge Lewis Kaplan issued them instructions in the civil case where the burden of proof is lower than the high burden of “reasonable doubt” in criminal trials.

The terms of the trial were an indictment of stereotypes surrounding sexual assault — how the accusers and even the accused are expected to behave — and the power dynamics that have long thwarted justice.

“I’m here because Donald Trump raped me and when I wrote about it, he said it didn’t happen. He lied and shattered my reputation. I’m here to try to get my life back,” Carroll said in court. Carroll then recounted how, on one day some 25 years ago, she was leaving the tony department store when she encountered Trump.

“He said, ‘Hey, you’re that advice lady.’ I said ‘Hey, you’re that real-estate tycoon.’” Trump claimed he needed to buy something for a woman, Carroll recalled, and “I was delighted. Here was Donald Trump asking me for advice to buy a present.” She thought it a “wonderful” prospect for a funny anecdote.

But upstairs, in a sixth-floor changing room, the encounter changed. “He immediately shut the door and shoved me up on the wall,” Carroll said, saying Trump pushed her so aggressively that her head struck the wall. It wasn’t clear to her what was happening. “For a minute, I thought maybe it was a mistake,” she said.

“I pushed him back, and he threw me back against the wall again, banging my head again,” Carroll testified, telling jurors that no, she didn’t scream.  “I didn’t want to make a scene. I know that sounds strange. I didn’t want to make him angry at me.”

In a recorded deposition, Trump denied having met Carroll, and referred to her claims as one of many hoaxes he has endured. At the last minute, he made public breathless comments that he would testify and “confront” Carroll in court, but did not. His legal team did not call any witnesses.

Carroll brought the civil suit in when New York passed the Adult Survivors Act. This opened a one-year window for people to sue for sexual assault in situations where the statute of limitations has expired. She had first sued Trump in 2019 for defamation.

Carroll, who has always maintained a sort of regal composure throughout the proceedings, smiled as she left the federal courthouse. She walked slowly between photographers on either side of her path. One supporter shouted: “You are so brave and beautiful — thank you!”

“I filed this lawsuit against Donald Trump to clear my name and to get my life back. Today, the world finally knows the truth,” Carroll said in a written statement. “This victory is not just for me but for every woman who has suffered because she was not believed.”

Trump attorney Joe Tacopina did not get the same reception as he exited court and addressed press on the steps. One Carroll supporter shouted: “Trump is a rapist!” Another person yelled: “You’re a fucking Neanderthal!” Tacopina said Trump would appeal.

“We’ve spoken and we’re ready to proceed and go forward,” Tacopina said. “He’s firm in his belief, as many people are, that he cannot get a fair trial in New York City based on the jury pool and, I think one could argue, that that’s probably an accurate assessment based on what happened today.”

E. Jean Carroll Wins Lawsuit Against Donald Trump