A jury in a civil case has found former President Donald Trump sexually abused a magazine columnist in a New York department store in the 1990s. But Mr Trump was found not liable for raping E Jean Carroll in the dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman.
The jury also found Mr Trump liable for defamation for calling the writer’s accusations “a hoax and a lie”. It is the first time Mr Trump has been found legally responsible for a sexual assault.
The Manhattan jury ordered Mr Trump to pay her about $5m in damages. The jury of six men and three women reached their decision after less than three hours of deliberations on Tuesday.
“Today, the world finally knows the truth,” Ms Carroll said in a written statement following the verdict. “This victory is not just for me but for every woman who has suffered because she was not believed.”
Mr Trump’s lawyer said the former president plans to appeal against the decision. Because the trial was in civil court rather than criminal, Mr Trump will not be required to register as a sex offender. The former president, who has denied Ms Carroll’s accusations – did not attend the two-week civil trial in the Manhattan federal court.
Ms Carroll, 79, held the hands of both her lawyers as the verdict was read in court and smiled as she was awarded damages by the jury. Mr Trump’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, shook her hand as the trial ended, telling her: “Congratulations and good luck.” Roberta Kaplan, a lawyer for the plaintiff said in a statement: “This is a victory not only for E Jean Carroll, but for democracy itself, and for all survivors everywhere.”
After the verdict, Mr Trump, 76, posted on his social media platform Truth Social in all capital letters: “I have absolutely no idea who this woman is. “This verdict is a disgrace – a continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time!”
The standard of proof in civil cases is lower than in criminal cases, meaning that jurors were only required to find that it was more likely than not that Mr Trump assaulted Ms Carroll.
While the jury found Mr Trump liable for sexual battery and defamation of Ms Carroll, they did not find Mr Trump liable of raping her. To do so, the jury would have needed to have been convinced that Mr Trump had engaged in non-consensual sexual intercourse with Ms Carroll.
The trial saw a tense cross-examination between Ms Carroll and Mr Trump’s attorneys. Her legal team called 11 witnesses to corroborate her claims that Mr Trump had assaulted her in the lingerie department of the luxury store in 1995 or 1996.
They included two women who also say they were sexually assaulted by Mr Trump decades ago. One woman told jurors that Mr Trump groped her during a flight in the 1970s. Another woman said that Mr Trump had forcibly kissed her while she was interviewing him for an article she was writing in 2005.
Two long-time friends of Ms Carroll testified that she told them about the encounter shortly after it occurred.
On the stand, Ms Carroll described in graphic detail what she alleges happened in the store and the trauma she says she has endured as a result. “I’m here because Donald Trump raped me and when I wrote about it, he lied and said it didn’t happen,” she told the court.
Mr Trump called no witnesses and appeared only in a video of a deposition that was played for jurors in which he denied rape. “It’s the most ridiculous, disgusting story,” Mr Trump said in the footage. “It’s just made up.”
Ms Carroll’s lawsuit also argued that Mr Trump had defamed her in an October 2022 post on his social media site in which he called her claims a “complete con job” and “a Hoax and a lie”. Her legal team argued Mr Trump had acted as a “witness against himself” during the deposition when he doubled down on comments he made in a 2005 recording.
In the audio, known as the Access Hollywood tape and leaked in 2016, Mr Trump suggested women let stars “do anything” to them, including grabbing their genitals. That’s what he did to Ms Carroll, her lawyer argued.
In the recorded video deposition, Mr Trump at one point confused Ms Carroll for his ex-wife, Marla Maples, which Ms Carroll’s lawyers argued undermined his claim that she was “not his type”.
The former Elle magazine columnist was able to bring the civil case against Mr Trump after New York passed the Adult Survivors Act in 2022. The law allowed a one-year period for victims to file sexual assault lawsuits in the state involving claims that would have normally exceeded statute limitations.