Donald Trump was found liable Tuesday for sexual battery and defamation in the civil case filed by author E. Jean Carroll, who had sued the former president over his public denials that he raped her at a department store in 1996. The federal jury ordered the former president to pay Carroll $5 million – the first time sex abuse allegations have had legal consequences for the candidate now seeking a second term in the White House.
The nine-person jury, six men and three women, got the case Tuesday morning, and returned its verdict a few hours later, finding that Trump more likely than not sexually assaulted Carroll and defamed her years later. It did not, however, affirm Carroll’s claim that she was raped, which would likely have increased the monetary award.
Trump told Fox News Digital after the verdict that he plans to appeal. “This verdict is a disgrace,” he said. “It is a continuation of the greatest political witch hunt in history.”
“The Democratic Party’s never-ending witch-hunt of President Trump hit a new low today,” Trump wrote in response to the verdict. “In jurisdictions wholly controlled by the Democratic Party our nation’s justice system is now compromised by extremist left-wing politics. We have allowed false and totally made-up claims from troubled individuals to interfere with our elections, doing great damage. … This case will be appealed, and we will ultimately win.”
Trump gave a sworn deposition but did not appear to testify live in the Manhattan federal courtroom, and his legal team did not offer a defense. He was ordered to pay $3 million for the claim of defamation, and another $2 million for the sex abuse claim.
Carroll and some 10 other witnesses testified, including friends who said she reported the assault to them soon after the encounter. The author and former Elle Magazine columnist claimed Trump raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in 1996, then defamed when he denied it in a social media post late last year.
Trump has denied ever meeting Carroll, and made the comment that she wasn’t his “type” – though he appeared at one point to mistake a photo of Carroll for ex-wife Marla Maples in his deposition.
Though the statute of limitations for rape has long since passed, Carroll used a New York state bill which opened an amnesty window to prosecute or sue for sexual assault allegations. She chose a civil trial, which has a lower “preponderance of evidence” standard than criminal matters. Carroll’s legal team needed only to show that her claims were “more than likely” based on the evidence.
In upholding Carroll’s defamation claim, the jury found that she displayed a preponderance of evidence that Trump sexually battered her in 1996; that he knew a statement he published about her last year was false; and that he made the statement with “actual malice,” or intent to damage her reputation.