Trump 'thinks he can get away with it', lawyer says in civil assault trial

Closing arguments take place in E Jean Carroll trial ahead of jury deliberations, which will start on Tuesday

'In a very real sense, Donald Trump is a witness against himself,' said lawyer for E Jean Carroll Roberta Kaplan. 'He knows what he did.' Reuters
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A lawyer told a US jury on Monday that Donald Trump should be held accountable for sexually assaulting advice columnist E Jean Carroll in 1996 because even former presidents are not above the law.

Roberta Kaplan delivered the first closing argument in the federal civil trial, showing jurors video clips of Mr Trump from his October deposition and replaying an Access Hollywood recording from 2005, in which the former president said into a hot mic that celebrities can inappropriately grab women without asking.

Ms Carroll, 79, filed her lawsuit last year against Mr Trump, 76, claiming he raped her in a dressing room at a Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan in 1995 or 1996, and then defamed her by denying it happened.

The former Elle magazine advice columnist is seeking unspecified monetary damages.

Closing arguments took place ahead of jury deliberations by the six-man, three-woman jury, which will take place on Tuesday.

Ms Kaplan pointed to Mr Trump's comment that “stars like him can get away with sexually assaulting women”.

“That’s who Donald Trump is. That is how he thinks. And that’s what he does,” Ms Kaplan said. “He thinks he can get away with it here.”

She told jurors that it was not a “he said, she said” case but rather one in which jurors should weigh what 11 witnesses, including Ms Carroll, said versus what they had heard from Mr Trump in his video deposition.

“He didn't even bother to show up here in person,” Ms Kaplan said.

Mr Trump has not attended the trial and is not required to.

She told jurors that much of what he said in his deposition and in public statements “actually supports our side of the case”.

“In a very real sense, Donald Trump is a witness against himself,” she said. “He knows what he did. He knows that he sexually assaulted E Jean Carroll.”

Mr Trump's lawyer on Monday called the rape and defamation case against him an affront to the justice system.

During closing arguments, Joseph Tacopina urged jurors to set aside any opinions they might have about Mr Trump and reject what the lawyer called Ms Carroll's effort to “profit” from what he called a false story.

“What E Jean Carroll has done here is an affront to justice. She has abused this system by bringing a false claim for, amongst other things, money, status, political reasons,” Mr Tacopina said.

Mr Trump has insisted in public statements and in his deposition that Ms Carroll made up the claims to boost sales of a 2019 memoir.

In a video deposition played for the jury last Wednesday, Mr Trump denied raping Ms Carroll.

“It's the most ridiculous, disgusting story,” Mr Trump said in the video, hunched over a conference table as Ms Carroll's lawyers presented documents to him. “It's just made up.”

Ms Carroll, who is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, gave evidence over more than two days during the trial, which is entering its third week.

She said she was leaving a Bergdorf Goodman store through a revolving door as Mr Trump was entering. He allegedly stopped her to help him shop for a gift for a woman.

Ms Carroll said they eventually took escalators to the store's desolate sixth floor, where they teased each other about trying on a piece of see-through lingerie.

She said she entered a dressing room with Mr Trump before the flirtatious outing turned violent, with him slamming her against a wall, pulling down her tights and raping her.

After the encounter, which lasted several minutes, she said she kneed him and fled the store.

Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is unrelated to Roberta Kaplan, told jurors that they would begin deliberations on Tuesday after he spends about an hour reading them the law that will pertain to battery and defamation, the two allegations they must decide on.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: May 08, 2023, 10:28 PM