A federal jury in New York found Donald Trump liable for battery and defamation in a civil trial stemming from allegations he raped the writer E. Jean Carroll in a department store dressing room in the mid-1990s.
While the jury found that Trump sexually abused her, sufficient to hold him liable for battery, the jury did not find that Carroll proved he raped her.
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 “by a preponderance of the evidence” that “Mr. Trump sexually abused Ms. Carroll,” the jury checked the box that said “yes.”
The six men and three women also found Trump had defamed Carroll by calling her claims a “hoax” and a “con job.”
Carroll was awarded $5 million in damages for her battery and defamation claims.
“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 statement Tuesday.
Carroll filed the lawsuit last November under the “New York State Adult Survivors Act,” a state bill which opened a look-back window for sexual assault allegations like Carroll’s with long-expired statutes of limitation.
Trump did not attend the trial. Like any defendant in a civil case, he was not required to appear in court for trial or any proceedings and has a right not to testify in his own defense. But his decision not to appear in court and make his case before the jury may have cost him.
“It’s very hard for a party to win a case without being present in court,” Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor and the president of West Coast Trial Lawyers, said in a statement.
Although Trump did not appear in court, a video of his deposition in which he denied the sexual abuse was entered into evidence and played for the jury in court. His lawyer, Joe Tacopina, repeatedly told the jury and had the judge clarify, that the video deposition counted as testimony and should be weighed the same as in-person testimony would be. Still, the jurors may not have felt the same.
Trump, for his part, was golfing in Ireland and holding a campaign event in New Hampshire while the trial played out.
Meanwhile, the judge in the case went to great lengths to ensure Trump had the opportunity to testify. Even after Tacopina, Trump’s lawyer, rested his case on Thursday, US District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan gave Trump until Sunday to change his mind and decide to testify.
However, Carroll’s lawyer Michael Ferrara emphasized Trump’s absence in the closing arguments, telling the jury it wasn’t even a matter of “he-said-she-said.”
“There wasn’t even a ‘he said,’ because Donald Trump never even looked you in the eye and said she was a liar,” he said.
Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing, responded to the verdict in a post on Truth Social, in which he denied knowing Carroll: “I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHO THIS WOMAN IS. THIS VERDICT IS A DISGRACE — A CONTINUATION OF THE GREATEST WITCH HUNT OF ALL TIME!”
A Trump campaign spokesman also said in a statement, “Make no mistake, this entire bogus case is a political endeavor targeting President Trump because he is now an overwhelming front-runner to be once again elected President of the United States.”
“This case will be appealed, and we will ultimately win,” the statement said.
The verdict marks the first time a former president has been found civilly liable for sexual misconduct.