DemDaily: Liable

May 10, 2023

Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday was found liable by a Manhattan federal jury for the sexual abuse and defamation of former Elle magazine columnist and author E. Jean Carroll.

The decision is another legal blow to Trump, following his April 4 indictment by a New York grand jury on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in a hush money scheme to cover up payments to a porn star before his victory in the 2016 presidential election. It made the twice-impeached Trump the first United States president to be charged with a crime.

The Carroll Case
The case stems from a November 2022 civil lawsuit filed by Carroll, who first came forward in 2019 in the aftermath of the revelations about Harvey Weinstein that sparked the #MeToo movement.

She alleged that Trump had raped her in a New York department store dressing room in 1996, and then defamed her when he denied that attack after leaving the White House.

"Decades ago, the now President of the United States raped me. When I had the courage to speak out about the attack, he defamed my character, accused me of lying for personal gain, even insulted my appearance....[this lawsuit] is filed on behalf of every woman who has ever been harassed, assaulted, silenced, or spoken up only to be shamed, fired, ridiculed and belittled." - E. Jean Carroll

The jury heard seven days of testimony, including a video deposition by Trump, who did little to help his defense.

Trump repeatedly maligned Carroll as "a nutjob" and "sick person," while decrying the suit as a "hoax" -- a defamatory word, as noted by Carroll attorney Roberta Kaplan, that the former president used frequently.

At one point, after reiterating Carroll was "not his type," he mistook the former journalist for his second wife, Marla Maples, in a black and white photograph shown by Kaplan.

In the deposition, Trump was also asked to react to the infamous 2016 Access Hollywood tape, which was played for the jury and includes his remark that famous men can grab women’s genitals. Trump responded that the 2005 exchange with host Billy Bush, captured on the videotape, was “locker room talk,” and said it was historically something that stars -- like himself -- could get away with it, “fortunately or unfortunately.”

The jury also heard the testimonies of Jessica Leeds and Natasha Stoynoff, two women who testified they were sexually assaulted by Trump and described incidents of forcible groping and kissing decades apart.

Two witnesses, former local New York news anchor Carol Martin and author Lisa Birnbach, also testified that Carroll told them of the rape shortly after it occurred, and has had a consistent account of the rape for more than 25 years.

Trump attorney Joseph Tacopina did not call any witnesses, but took the questionable tactic of attacking Carroll's credibility on cross-examination, asking why she didn't scream or call out during the alleged attack. Carroll replied: “One of the reasons women don’t come forward is because they’re always asked: ‘Why didn’t you scream?’ Some women scream. Some women don’t. It keeps women silent.”

The nine-person jury of six men and three women deliberated for just three hours before finding Trump liable for sexual assault, battery and defamation against Carroll. On the issue of rape, the jury found that Carroll had not proved, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Trump had raped her, but did prove sexual assault.

Trump was ordered to pay $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Because this was a civil case, Trump faces no criminal consequences.

While more than two dozen women have accused Trump of sexual assault, the Carroll verdict represents the first time he’s been held legally responsible for the act.

A Trump spokesman said that the former president would appeal. He will not have to pay the awarded damages while the verdict is being challenged in court.

In the interim, Trump will be the "star" of a CNN Republican Town Hall in New Hampshire tonight in which he will field questions about his 2024 presidential run.

The Trials of Trump
Trump is facing investigations, lawsuits and/or potential prosecution by the Manhattan District Attorney; the New York Attorney General; the Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney; the Weschester County, New York District Attorney; the Department of Justice; the Securities and Exchange Commission and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority; the US Capitol Police and DC Metropolitan Police; former staff from his 2016 campaign; and four anonymous plaintiffs in a class action multi-level marketing lawsuit.

Neither the civil or criminal cases seem to dampen Trump's support among Republican primary voters. A May 5-7, 2023 Morning Consult poll shows 60% of primary voters support Trump, widening the gap between him and Ron DeSantis, who won just 19%. Mike Pence and Vivek Ramaswamy garnered 5% each, followed by Nikki Haley with 3% (MOE: +/-2%).

DemDaily: With Intent to Defraud and Conceal 4/4/23
DemDaily: Indictment Divides Expanding GOP Field 4/3/23
DemDaily: Indicted 3/31/23
DemDaily: The Trials of Trump 3/20/23
DemDaily: CPAC Kowtows to Trump 3/6/23

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: Reuters, CNN, The Guardian, New York Times, Daily Beast, Politico

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