A jury in New York City decided that former President Donald Trump was liable to pay $5 million in damages to Jean Carroll for sexually abusing the former Elle magazine writer.
- After three hours of deliberation, the Manhattan jury determined that Trump was liable for sexually abusing Carroll in a department store in the 1990s and owes her $5 million, both for sexual abuse—the jury did not determine rape—and for using defamatory language about Carroll.
- In a Truth Social post after the verdict, Trump said the verdict was “a continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time,” and claimed he did not know the woman nor had he ever met the woman.
- In a New York legal provision that arose as a result of the Me-Too Movement, rape and sexual-harassment accusations are allowed into the courtroom beyond their statute of limitations.
why it’s important
E. Jean Carroll, a former Elle advice columnist, alleged in her 2019 memoir that Trump attacked her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in New York City in the mid-1990s. She sued the former president in 2022 for damages after a change in New York state law allowed survivors of sexual assault to file legal actions at any point after the incident occurred. Trump and his legal team have denied the accusations and claimed that Trump never met Carroll—even though there was a photo of them together. When shown the photograph and asked who the woman was, Trump mistakenly answered: “That’s Marla,” referring to his previous wife Marla Maples.
Two other women testified that Carroll told them about the assault immediately after it happened.
The sexual-assault verdict follows other legal troubles for Trump, who pleaded not guilty to falsifying business records in connection to $130,000 he allegedly arranged to give to porn star Stormy Daniels. The Trump Organization was found guilty of tax fraud in January. Plus, the Justice Department has two ongoing probes into Trump regarding his role in the January 6 Capitol riots and his handling of classified documents after leaving office.
Trump and his supporters call the charges “politically motivated witch hunts.” The legal charges have not negatively affected his popularity among his supporters. A declared candidate for president, he remains the leading candidate for the Republican nomination.
While many legal experts question how such a decision can be rendered nearly 30 years after the alleged incident, the former president made self-damning comments in an October 2022 deposition regarding the case. In a 2005 Access Hollywood recording made public in 2016, the real-estate mogul talked about celebrities getting away with sexual assault because they are famous. When asked if that is true in the 2022 deposition, Trump replies, “That’s been largely true—unfortunately or fortunately.”
The standards of proof in a civil matter are lower than in a criminal case, but the jury still needs to see sufficient evidence to determine guilt.
The suit against the former president was funded in part by opponents, including LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman. Trump did not testify in his own defense.
“It’s plausible that the former President abused and defamed Ms. Carroll. It’s also plausible that he was falsely accused…. Yet if most Republicans dismiss the verdict as one more political assault, Mr. Trump’s opponents and the press have themselves to blame. They show no restraint. This lawsuit, like the two impeachments and the recent Alvin Bragg indictment that stretches the law, seems less an attempt to get at the truth than to find some way, any way, to disqualify him from ever becoming president again. Voters don’t like being told that a man they elected should be disqualified by members of the opposite party or the press,” writes the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal.