In a landmark ruling on Tuesday, a New York jury held former President Donald Trump legally accountable for sexually abusing and defaming a former American magazine columnist. The ruling commands Trump to pay a sum of $5 million in damages.
E. Jean Carroll, 79, who used to write for Elle magazine, brought the lawsuit against Trump last year. She accused him of sexually assaulting her in a changing room at the upscale Bergdorf Goodman store on Manhattan’s prestigious Fifth Avenue in 1996. Additionally, Carroll alleged that the former president defamed her in 2019, labeling her as “a complete con job” when she made her accusations public.
Despite dismissing Carroll’s rape accusation, the nine-member jury sustained her other charges after nearly three hours of deliberations in the highly scrutinized civil trial. The unanimous decision marks the first occasion Trump has faced legal repercussions for a series of sexual assault allegations spanning several decades.
Trump, 76, currently leading the race for the Republican nomination in the forthcoming presidential election, dismissed Carroll’s case as a “hoax” and a “lie.” Post-trial, he vehemently dismissed the ruling as a “disgrace” on his social media platform, Truth Social.
The jury, composed of six men and three women, ascertained that Carroll had effectively demonstrated sexual abuse — constituting non-consensual sexual contact — based on a preponderance of the evidence. They awarded her $2 million for this charge. Furthermore, the jury ruled that Trump should pay Carroll an additional $3 million for defamation.
Roberta Kaplan, Carroll’s lawyer, expressed satisfaction with the outcome. However, Carroll, herself, refrained from comment, leaving the Manhattan federal court with a smile.
Trump’s 2024 campaign team rebuffed the case as a “political endeavor” aimed at thwarting Trump’s efforts to return to the White House. They announced plans to appeal the decision.
Over the course of the two-week-long civil trial, Carroll revealed the deep-seated shame and fear that had prevented her from going public with her accusations for over 20 years. Her legal team summoned two additional women to the witness stand, both of whom testified that Trump sexually assaulted them decades ago.
Trump, who has consistently denied all allegations of sexual misconduct, refrained from testifying during the proceedings. His defense team didn’t call any witnesses, instead arguing that Carroll had fabricated the allegations “for money, for political reasons, and for status.”
This trial is only one of many legal obstacles that could impede Trump’s bid for the presidency. Despite these legal challenges, Trump’s supporters have generally remained loyal to their candidate thus far.
Last month, Trump pleaded not guilty to criminal charges related to a hush-money payment made to a porn star just before the 2016 election, allegedly to silence talk of an affair. Trump also faces ongoing investigations into his attempts to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia, alleged mismanagement of classified documents removed from the White House, and his involvement in the storming of the US Capitol by his supporters on January 6, 2021.