Trump's civil trial verdict Snitzsplained.
Updated: May 12
Let's get some stuff out of the way.
For decades women have often found themselves on trial themselves if they stand up after being sexually abused. Why be traumatized again by a bunch of unbelieving inquisitors? That needs to change!
Trump is an awful human being whose rhetoric is disrespectful to women. His joking about Ms. Carroll's allegations is repugnant.
That said, how do we evaluate what just went down?
Trump's personality and offensive messaging does not make him guilty of sexual abuse or defamation (unless he's intentionally lying with malice).
Is it possible for someone to defend themselves from an allegation 30 years later? Sorry, not really. That's quite a stretch.
Trump has called Carroll a liar and a false accuser. The jury did not find the preponderance of the evidence supported her accusations. Does that mean that Carroll slandered Trump? Was he wrong to attack her in the press for referring to him as a rapist? It depends on whether he did or didn't rape her. The jury didn't believe he did.
My point here: This is a slippery slope, and none of this is going to have any impact on his candidacy. The important lesson going forward is for the criminal justice system to support victims moving immediately, not 30 years later.
BTW, Carroll yesterday threatened sue Trump again for his recent remarks at the CNN Town Hall event (see link).
Donald Trump Found Liable for Defamation, Sexual Abuse in Civil Case
Jury orders former president to pay $5 million in damages to E. Jean Carroll
By James Fanelli and Corinne Ramey, WSJ
Updated May 9, 2023 7:01 pm ET
A federal jury found Donald Trump liable for sexually abusing and defaming E. Jean Carroll and ordered him to pay $5 million in damages, after a civil trial in which the advice columnist alleged the former president raped her in a Manhattan department store nearly 30 years ago.
The jury, following a two-week civil trial, didn’t find that Mr. Trump committed rape but found it more likely than not that he sexually abused Ms. Carroll in a dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman, sometime around 1996. Jurors also found that Mr. Trump defamed Ms. Carroll in comments he made denying her allegations, which she first made publicly in 2019.
Ms. Carroll, 79 years old, who has said she was inspired to come forward by the #MeToo movement, clasped her lawyers’ hands as the verdict was announced. “This victory is not just for me but for every woman who has suffered because she was not believed,” she said.
Joe Tacopina, the lead lawyer for Mr. Trump, shook hands with her after the judge dismissed the jury, which consisted of six men and three women. Ms. Carroll smiled as she left the courthouse and was escorted quickly into an SUV.
In a social-media post, Mr. Trump, 76, called the verdict a disgrace. “I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHO THIS WOMAN IS,” he said. Mr. Tacopina said he would appeal.
The verdict, delivered Tuesday after just three hours of deliberations, is a rebuke to Mr. Trump as he seeks the 2024 Republican presidential nomination while being dogged by a host of legal troubles. He is separately facing New York criminal charges connected to his payment of hush money to a porn star before the 2016 election, as well as other criminal investigations, related to the pressuring of Georgia officials after the 2020 election, his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, and his handling of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida.
He is also facing civil fraud allegations from the New York attorney general and another civil lawsuit from Ms. Carroll, who formerly was a longtime Elle magazine columnist and at one time, a writer for “Saturday Night Live.”
Mr. Trump has denied wrongdoing in all of these matters. He chose not to testify in the Carroll trial—or attend any of the proceedings in person—but in a videotaped deposition under oath he accused Ms. Carroll of making up her allegations for publicity and political reasons, calling it “the most ridiculous, disgusting story.” His lawyers argued that Ms. Carroll’s allegations contained inconsistencies and that she hadn’t behaved like a rape victim at the time of the alleged incident or in the years since.
In an edited deposition video released as a trial exhibit in the civil rape case filed by E. Jean Carroll against former President Donald Trump, he said that looking ‘over the last million years’ it has been largely true that celebrities can grab women by the genitals.
Ms. Carroll’s allegations first became public in a 2019 New York Magazine article that was an excerpt of a book she published the same year, “What Do We Need Men For?”
The writer, who continues to self-publish a column on Substack, testified over three days, telling jurors that she and Mr. Trump, then a prominent New York City figure and real-estate mogul, struck up a rapport after bumping into one another at Bergdorf Goodman around 1996. The playful banter continued in the lingerie section, she said, but ended once the two entered a dressing room for what she thought was so Mr. Trump could try on a see-through bodysuit as a gag.
“He immediately shut the door and shoved me up against the wall and shoved me so hard my head banged,” she recalled.
Ms. Carroll testified in graphic detail about the alleged rape. The attack lasted a few minutes before she broke free from him, but “it left me unable to ever have a romantic life again,” she said.
Ms. Carroll sparred with Mr. Tacopina on the witness stand as he tried to raise doubts about the details of her account, asking her why she didn’t scream or go to the police.
“Women like me were taught and trained to keep our chins up and to not complain,” Ms. Carroll said.
Mr. Tacopina called Ms. Carroll’s account inconceivable, saying it shared striking similarities to a 2012 “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” episode in which a character describes a rape fantasy in the lingerie section of Bergdorf Goodman. Ms. Carroll testified she was aware of the episode but never saw it.
Mr. Trump’s lawyer also noted that Ms. Carroll had joked on Facebook about having sex with Mr. Trump for money and said that she was a fan of “The Apprentice,” the reality television show in which Mr. Trump previously served as the host.
“It was a very good television show,” she told jurors.
To find Mr. Trump liable for sexual abuse, the jury was required to find by a preponderance of the evidence that he engaged in sexual contact with Ms. Carroll by force. For a rape finding, the jury would have needed to conclude that Mr. Trump physically forced sexual intercourse with her.
E. Jean Carroll reacts with her attorneys as the verdict is read in the civil rape accusation case against former President Donald Trump in this courtroom sketch. PHOTO: JANE ROSENBERG/REUTERS
Ms. Carroll’s defamation claim stemmed from an October 2022 social-media post in which Mr. Trump called her account a “Hoax and a lie.” He wrote, “E. Jean Carroll is not telling the truth, is a woman who I had nothing to do with, didn’t know, and would have no interest in knowing her if I ever had the chance.”
While jurors were only deciding on Ms. Carroll’s allegations, the trial became a broader examination of Mr. Trump’s treatment of women, resurfacing derogatory comments he made in the past. Two women also testified at the trial in support of Ms. Carroll, saying they were sexually assaulted by him in a similar manner years ago. Mr. Trump has previously denied their allegations.
Jurors also saw a well-known video that became public in 2016 in which Mr. Trump told an “Access Hollywood” host how women let stars “grab them by the pussy.”
“That’s what you said, correct?” Roberta Kaplan, a lawyer for Ms. Carroll, asked Mr. Trump during the deposition.
“Well, historically, that’s true with stars,” he said, later adding that he considered himself one.
Jurors were dismissed after a court clerk read the verdict. U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who presided over the trial, told them they were allowed to discuss the case but warned them about going public for safety reasons.
“My advice to you is not to identify yourselves—not now, not for a long time,” he said, also ordering them not to identify other members of the jury.
Legal setbacks and defeats haven’t slowed him before, with many of his supporters remaining steadfast amid the swirl of controversy. Republicans rallied around Mr. Trump in April when he was charged in the hush-money case, and his campaign saw a flood of small-dollar donations. Mr. Trump also saw his polling advantage over the GOP primary field grow after the charges by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Still, the compounding effect of Mr. Trump’s legal troubles could further turn off Republicans who have wavered on Mr. Trump, especially those in hotly contested suburban areas.
Ms. Carroll’s 2022 complaint was one of the most prominent lawsuits filed under a New York law called the Adult Survivors Act, which opened a yearlong window in which people who say they were sexually assaulted as adults could file lawsuits, no matter when the alleged incidents occurred. Under the law, which went into effect last Thanksgiving, 135 plaintiffs have filed 106 lawsuits in state court, according to a spokesman for New York state court, where the bulk of the suits have been filed.
Two of Ms. Carroll’s friends testified at trial that she told them each separately about what happened soon after the alleged attack. Ms. Carroll said she chose to remain silent for decades but came forward after the New York Times ran a series of stories of women accusing former movie studio head Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct. He was later convicted of sex crimes.
The legal standard for Ms. Carroll to prevail in the civil case was lower than in criminal cases, where a defendant must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Ms. Carroll said she decided to sue Mr. Trump in part because he repeatedly called her a liar in public and on social media, making her a target of vitriol from some of his supporters.
“He lied and shattered my reputation, and I am here to try to get my life back,” she said.
Alex Leary contributed to this article.