On May 9, 2023, a civil jury in New York returned a verdict finding that former president Donald J. Trump sexually assaulted and defamed writer E. Jean Carroll. The jury awarded Carroll $5 million in damages.
Carroll authored the “Ask E. Jean” advice column in Elle magazine from 1993 through 2019. From 1994 through 1996, she hosted and produced a television series that aired on NBC’s America’s Talking channel. She wrote for The Atlantic and Vanity Fair, and served as a contributing editor for Outside, Esquire, New York, and Playboy. At the time of the sexual assault, Trump was a celebrity real estate mogul.
Carroll filed her first defamation lawsuit against Trump in 2019 after she released a memoir detailing the sexual assault. Trump’s remarks at issue in that lawsuit were made in response to media inquiries during his time as president. The Department of Justice argues that the government, and not Trump, should be the defendant in that case. A decision is still pending in that case.
Carroll filed her second lawsuit last year in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York. In this lawsuit, Carroll cited the Adult Survivors Act, a New York law providing victims a one-year window to sue over alleged sexual assaults that occurred years prior. This lawsuit centers around Trump’s statement posted on social media in October 2022, after his time as president. During the trial, Carroll testified that Trump sexually assaulted her at Bergdorf Goodman in the mid-1990s. After a bit of flirting, the two went into a dressing room where the sexual assault occurred. Carroll recalled kneeing Trump before fleeing. She told two friends and then remained silent until she released her memoir. Carroll further testified that she felt guilt over the incident, which led to her inability to have romantic relationships and sex with men.
Trump did not testify during the trial despite his indication to reporters that he would “confront” Carroll. Trump’s defense team did not call any witnesses. Trump’s lawyers instead chose to question Carroll and the witnesses called by Carroll’s lawyers. Recordings from Trump’s deposition were played in court, along with the recording from the “Access Hollywood” interview. Two other women who have accused Trump of sexual assault also provided testimony.
The jury deliberated for just under three hours before returning their verdict. The jury found that Trump sexually abused Carroll, but did not find that he raped her. The jury also found that Trump’s social media statement was defamatory. Six men and three women comprised the jury. Judge Lewis A. Kaplan kept the jurors’ identities anonymous throughout the trial, citing Trump’s rhetoric and behavior towards jurors in other legal matters. Although the jurors are now free to identify themselves, Judge Kaplan has advised the jurors not to do so.
Trump is still embroiled in numerous legal matters. He faces a criminal indictment for falsifying business records, an investigation concerning his handling of classified materials related to the 2020 presidential election, and a civil lawsuit concerning business fraud by the Trump Organization.
Jurors award $5M to writer who sued Trump for alleged assault; what evidence supported her allegations?, ABA Journal (May 9, 2023)
Jury in civil trial finds Trump sexually abused, defamed E. Jean Carroll, The Washington Post (May 9, 2023)
Carroll v. Trump (Case No. 1:2022cv10016)
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