Jury finds Trump sexually assaulted E Jean Carroll and fines him $5m

Writer Ms Carroll claimed former US president assaulted her in a department store in the mid-1990s

Writer E Jean Carroll and former US president Donald Trump. AFP
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A New York jury on Tuesday found Donald Trump liable for sexually assaulting writer E Jean Carroll in the 1990s, and said he later defamed the magazine writer after she shared her experience.

Jurors did not did not find Mr Trump liable of raping Ms Carroll during the interaction that took place in a dressing room at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan some time in 1995 or 1996.

Mr Trump's lawyer Joe Tacopina said the former president would appeal against the decision.

The nine-member jury of six men and three women in Manhattan Federal Court ordered Mr Trump to pay Ms Carroll $5 million — $2 million for sexual battery and $3 million for defamation.

The jury reached a unanimous decision in the civil case within hours of the start to deliberations.

On the issue of defamation, jurors agreed that it was “highly probable” that Mr Trump’s social media post calling Ms Carroll “a complete con job” and “a hoax and a lie” was false and made to hurt her.

The trial took place over seven days, with Ms Carroll testifying for two days about the sexual assault.

The former Elle magazine columnist said Mr Trump was speaking with her about buying lingerie for another woman he knew, just before he forced her into a dressing room.

Ms Carroll said he closed the door and pushed her up against a wall to rape her. She said she fled within a few minutes of the assault beginning.

“As I’m sitting here today, I can still feel it,” she said.

Mr Tacopina cross-examined Ms Carroll as part of her testimony, challenging her on why she didn’t fight back.

“He raped me whether I screamed or not,” she said.

Two women — former People magazine reporter Natasha Stoynoff and businesswoman Jessica Leeds — who supported Ms Carroll's claims testified against Mr Trump with their claims of sexual assault by him.

A video recording of a deposition with him was also played.

"I filed this lawsuit against Donald Trump to clear my name and to get my life back," Ms Carroll said in a statement after the verdict. "Today, the world finally knows the truth."

"This victory is not just for me but for every woman who has suffered because she was not believed."

At least two dozen women have accused Mr Trump of sexual assault.

The 2024 Republican presidential candidate chose not to defend himself in court and was not present for the verdict.

“In a very real sense, Donald Trump is a witness against himself,” Ms Carroll's lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, said in closing arguments on Monday.

“He knows what he did. He knows that he sexually assaulted E Jean Carroll.”

In a message on his Truth Social platform, Mr Trump said the verdict was a "disgrace", claiming “I have absolutely no idea who this woman is.”

Alyssa Batchelor, a long-time Democratic Party strategist, told The National that Tuesday's verdict would give Mr Trump's Republican rivals a new line of attack as they try to take down the frontrunner to be nominated to run against President Joe Biden in 2024.

"This could be potentially a problem for Trump in the Republican primary," Ms Batchelor said.

"This is important in demystifying the power that he has."

She said the verdict served as a "document of his disregard for women," something many voters would find important in 2024, particularly after the Supreme Court last year repealed the federal right to an abortion.

The former president is facing several investigations — including a Georgia inquiry into his role in trying to sway the results of the 2020 election and a federal inquiry into his role in fuelling the January 6, 2021 insurrection.

He was also recently indicted in in New York for a hush-money scheme around the 2016 election, which was the first criminal charge against any sitting or former American president.

Ellie Sennett in Washington contributed to this report.

Updated: May 10, 2023, 4:30 AM