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E. Jean Carroll’s lawsuit against former President Donald Trump begins

On Tuesday, a nearly 30-year-old rape claim against Donald Trump went to trial as jurors in the federal civil case heard a former advice columnist’s allegation of being attacked in a luxury department store dressing room.

Carroll claims Trump raped her in the changing room of the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan in the 1990s.

“As a result of the pain and suffering caused by Trump’s sexual assault, Carroll has not been able to sustain a romantic relationship since the day Trump raped her,” Carroll’s suit claims, adding that she has been unable to have sexual or romantic relationships with men since that day.

As a matter of fact, Carroll has sued Trump twice so far, and both matters are still active. The first lawsuit was back in November 2019, and alleges defamation. After Carroll published an article in New York magazine, recounting the alleged rape, Trump responded, saying that Carroll was lying and going on to observe that “she’s not my type.” This suit was quickly tied up in disputes about the proper role of the Department of Justice in defending the former president. It has still not gone to trial.

The second lawsuit she filed was three years later, in November 2022, under New York’s Adult Survivors Act, which opened a one-year window for people alleging sexual assault to bring civil claims older than would otherwise be allowable under the statute of limitations. Like the first suit, the second one contains a defamation claim. Because Trump was no longer president at the time the claim was filed, it has proceeded quickly to trial.

During yesterday’s opening statements, Shawn Crowley, Carroll’s attorney, said Trump and Carroll bumped into each other at the department store, at first engaging in friendly, joking banter as they walked through the store. At some point, the two allegedly entered a dressing room, and Crowley said Trump “suddenly” pushed Carroll against a changing room wall, raped her, and then tried to ruin her reputation after she told the story in 2019.

“The whole attack would last just a few minutes, but it would stay with her forever,” Crowley said. “Filled with fear and shame, she kept silent for decades. Eventually, though, silence became impossible,” he added. But when Carroll broke that silence in a 2019 memoir, Donald Trump “used the most powerful platform on Earth to lie about what he had done, attack Ms. Carroll’s integrity and insult her appearance.”

Crowley also went on to add, “Donald Trump assaulted Carroll but you will also hear that she is not the only one he has assaulted,” the attorney said, referring to other women who have claimed Trump groped them against their will.”

Trump, who wasn’t in court but hasn’t ruled out testifying, denied the allegations and has called Carroll a “nut job” who fabricated the rape claim to sell her book. Defense attorney Joe Tacopina told jurors Tuesday that her story was wildly implausible and short of evidence.

Trump’s lawyer Joseph Tacopina, in his own statement, urged jurors to put aside any negative feelings they might have about the former president and focus on the evidence, which he said would exonerate Trump.

“You can hate Donald Trump. That’s OK. But there’s a time and a secret place for that. It’s called a ballot box in an election. It’s not here in a court of law,” Tacopina told the jurors. “Nobody’s above the law, but no one is beneath it.”

“The evidence will show you that what [Carroll] is doing is an affront to justice,” Tacopina said. “She is doing this for money, political reasons and status and in doing so she is minimizing true rape victims and destroying their pain and capitalizing on them.”

As of now, it is unclear whether Donald Trump will attend any of the trial, an issue the judge brought up after excusing jurors Tuesday.

Overall, the trial comes as Trump is facing significant criminal and civil legal scrutiny. His Manhattan criminal court hearing marked the first time in U.S. history a former president was charged with a crime, and the case is related to alleged business records fraud in connection with a 2016 “hush money” payment made to adult film star Stormy Daniels.


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