Home Art Carroll v. Trump: Battery and defamation case comes to trial

Carroll v. Trump: Battery and defamation case comes to trial

Carroll v. Trump: Battery and defamation case comes to trial

Former President Donald Trump’s legal problems could deepen this week with the scheduled opening of a New York trial on allegations he sexually assaulted journalist E. Jean Carroll in a dressing room some 30 years ago.

The case involves civil charges, unlike the historic criminal indictment of Mr. Trump earlier this month. The former president has emphatically denied the alleged assault and suggested Ms. Carroll invented it to increase sales of a 2019 book.

Why We Wrote This
A civil lawsuit against Donald Trump, starting tomorrow, could renew focus on his alleged pattern of sexual misbehavior. And it piles atop other legal challenges facing the former president.

But with trials and pending trials beginning to multiply, Mr. Trump and his lawyers face the prospect of lurching from one courtroom to the next, defending against an array of cases of varying levels of seriousness.

The lawsuit brought by Ms. Carroll is the second she’s filed against the former president. Both suits charge Mr. Trump with defamation, and the second adds in a battery claim. The first lawsuit has remained stuck while courts wrangle over whether Mr. Trump was acting within the scope of his duties as president when he spoke to the press in 2019 and denigrated Ms. Carroll. The second suit – the one set to start tomorrow – focuses on statements Mr. Trump made after he left office in January 2021.

Former President Donald Trump’s legal problems could deepen this week with the scheduled opening of a New York trial on allegations he sexually assaulted journalist E. Jean Carroll in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room some 30 years ago.

The case involves civil charges, unlike the historic criminal indictment of Mr. Trump earlier this month by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Civil trials adjudicate disputes between people or organizations and don’t result in time in prison or on parole. In the vast majority of cases judgments against defendants result in money changing hands.

The former president has emphatically denied the alleged assault and suggested Ms. Carroll invented it to increase sales of a 2019 book in which she described the incident.

Why We Wrote This
A civil lawsuit against Donald Trump, starting tomorrow, could renew focus on his alleged pattern of sexual misbehavior. And it piles atop other legal challenges facing the former president.

But with trials and pending trials beginning to multiply, Mr. Trump and his lawyers face the prospect of lurching from one courtroom to the next, defending against an array of cases of varying levels of seriousness. Mr. Trump may soon be indicted in Georgia on charges related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 vote in that state. Federal special counsel Jack Smith looms in the background, investigating Mr. Trump’s alleged role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, and his possible illegal retention of classified documents following his term in office.

The Carroll case, set to go to trial on April 25, may also return to the headlines Mr. Trump’s past crude statements about women, plus multiple allegations of groping and sexual misbehavior. U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled in March that Ms. Carroll can present as evidence the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Mr. Trump boasted he could “grab” women, and the testimony of two other women, Natasha Stoynoff and Jessica Leeds, who have claimed he assaulted them.

Former President Donald Trump, shown here at his arraignment on April 4, 2023, in New York, denies the allegations made by journalist E. Jean Carroll in a separate case.

The allegationsMs. Carroll is a New York-based journalist and a longtime former advice columnist for Elle magazine. In the mid-1990s she was host and producer of the “Ask E. Jean” show on NBC’s America’s Talking cable network, the predecessor to MSNBC.

In her legal complaint against Mr. Trump, Ms. Carroll says that one evening between the fall of 1995 and the spring of 1996 she left work and went to Bergdorf Goodman’s to shop. Exiting empty-handed through a revolving side door, she encountered Mr. Trump entering through the same entrance.

Mr. Trump put his hand up to prevent her leaving and said, “Hey, you’re that advice lady!” in Ms. Carroll’s retelling. She replied, “Hey, you’re that real estate tycoon!”

The pair began searching for a gift that Mr. Trump could give to an unnamed female acquaintance. He rejected a handbag and a hat, according to Ms. Carroll’s complaint. He decided they should look at lingerie instead.

Entering the lingerie department, Mr. Trump allegedly snatched up a bodysuit and insisted that Ms. Carroll try it on. She insisted he try it on. He maneuvered her into the dressing room, shut the door, and suddenly began to assault her, according to the complaint.

She tried to resist, stomping with her high heels, but Mr. Trump opened his overcoat and raped her, Ms. Carroll alleges. She ran out of the dressing room and the store onto Fifth Avenue.

“The whole attack lasted two to three minutes,” her complaint alleges.

Ms. Carroll says that in the immediate aftermath of the incident she confided in two friends: writer Lisa Birnbach and news anchor Carol Martin. Both have since confirmed that she did so.

But Ms. Carroll ultimately decided not to go to the police, she says, in the belief that she would be dragged through the mud, and that the wealthy Mr. Trump could afford enough lawyers to legally crush her.

She remained silent for 20 years. Then came the public charges against movie producer Harvey Weinstein and the onset of the #MeToo movement. Ultimately, she wrote about the alleged assault as a section in her 2019 book, “What Do We Need Men For?” a collection of stories about men she judged the worst she had ever encountered.

Trump’s responseMr. Trump has denied Ms. Carroll’s allegations in his typical forcefully worded style ever since they became public four years ago.

“I’ve never met this person in my life,” then-President Trump said in a statement in June 2019. “She is trying to sell a new book – that should indicate her motivation. It should be sold in the fiction section.”

On a number of occasions Mr. Trump has said Ms. Carroll is not his “type,” suggesting that it is improbable an assault occurred because he would not have pursued her romantically.

However, during a deposition taken in October 2022, Mr. Trump mistook a photo of Ms. Carroll for a picture of Marla Maples, his second wife.

From the portions of the transcript that have been released the deposition appears to have been combative. At times Mr. Trump became angry with Ms. Carroll’s lawyer Roberta Kaplan. (She is unrelated to Judge Kaplan, who is scheduled to oversee the trial.)

“I will sue her after this is over, and that’s the thing I really look forward to doing,” Mr. Trump said of Ms. Carroll at one point.

“And I’ll sue you too,” he said to Ms. Kaplan.

The deposition also hints at the legal strategy Mr. Trump’s lawyers may pursue in the trial after its scheduled beginning on Tuesday.

Mr. Trump continually challenges Ms. Carroll’s mental stability throughout his interview with her lawyers. At one point, he indicates that he believes that during an interview on CNN with Anderson Cooper about her allegations, “she said rape was sexy.”

That seems a misreading of what Ms. Carroll said. In the interview, she expanded on why she does not use the word “rape” in conjunction with her allegations against Mr. Trump. That is partly because “I think most people think of rape as being sexy,” she said, according to a transcript of the interview.

“I thought of it as a violent incident. I thought of it as a fight,” she said of her alleged encounter with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Cooper is on the list of possible defense witnesses Mr. Trump’s lawyers may call to the stand in the upcoming trial.

The two casesMs. Carroll has filed two separate lawsuits against former President Trump centering on his alleged actions in the mid-1990s.

She first sued Mr. Trump for defamation in 2019 over claims that he had never met her, and that she had invented the attack to bolster her book sales. In September 2020, the Justice Department abruptly intervened in the proceedings on Mr. Trump’s behalf, citing a law meant to protect federal employees from litigation stemming from their official duties.

That suit, “Carroll I,” has remained stuck while courts wrangle over whether Mr. Trump was acting within the scope of his duties as president when he spoke to the press in 2019 and denigrated Ms. Carroll and her motives.

Ms. Carroll filed her second lawsuit in November 2022, after New York state enacted a law opening a one-year window to allow victims of past sexual assaults to bring their old charges to court, despite statutes of limitations.

“Carroll II,” like its predecessor, charges Mr. Trump with defamation. This time, the charge is derived from statements Mr. Trump made after he left office in January 2021, so the question of whether he was acting within the bounds of his duties as president at the time does not come into play. It adds in a battery claim for the alleged assault itself.

It is this second lawsuit that is coming to trial tomorrow in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, with Judge Kaplan presiding.

Judge Kaplan recently denied a request by Trump lawyers for a one-month delay in the trial’s onset due to the “deluge of prejudicial media coverage” resulting from the former president’s indictment in New York state court on charges related to the payment of hush money to a porn star. The judge said there was no need for such a postponement, given that Mr. Trump is the subject of constant media attention, and that the media coverage of his indictment was largely “invited or provoked by Mr. Trump’s own actions.”

Judge Kaplan has also ruled that the jury will be allowed to hear the “Access Hollywood” tape, and the claims of Ms. Stoynoff and Ms. Leeds that Mr. Trump also attacked them. In cases such as this, evidence of previous alleged bad acts is often disallowed. But revisions to federal rules on evidence in the 1990s opened the door for its use in sexual assault cases.

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