For the first time in history, a former President of the United States has been found liable for sexual abuse and defamation. What does the verdict mean for Donald J. Trump, and what led to the case and the jury’s decision?
What Was the Case About?
In 2019, E. Jean Carroll, a journalist, author, and popular columnist, publicly stated that Donald J. Trump raped her in the mid-1990s. Caroll detailed the account in her memoir, What Do We Need Men For?: A Modest Proposal. Parts of the story were also included in an article for New York magazine.
In response to the release of the story, Trump made disparaging comments about Carroll. He said, “I’ve never met this person in my life.” He also called Caroll a “liar” and said, “She is trying to sell a new book — that should indicate her motivation. It should be sold in the fiction section.”
In November 2022, Caroll took her story to court.
Caroll filed a civil suit in New York, alleging that Trump raped her and then defamed her after she came out with her story. Carroll was able to file the assault case in civil court despite the statute of limitation due to a new law called the New York State Adult Survivors Act. The law allows litigation for sexual assault allegations that took place even decades ago.
“I’m here because Donald Trump raped me, and when I wrote about it, he said it didn’t happen,” Carroll testified during the trial. “He lied and shattered my reputation, and I’m here to try to get my life back.”
What Was the Outcome of the Case?
The case was heard in front of a nine-person jury in New York state.
During the trial, Caroll took the stand to share her experience. Her legal team called ten others to testify which included two women who testified that Trump also sexually assaulted them.
While Trump has denied any wrongdoing, his legal team did not present a defense in the case. They called no witnesses, and Trump did not attend the trial. Trump’s team asked for a mistrial, but it was not granted by the judge.
The two-week trial ended with a jury of six men and three women determining that Trump was liable for sexually abusing and defaming Carroll.
The jury said there was enough evidence to believe that Trump sexually abused Carroll, but they did not find enough evidence to say that Trump raped her.
As reported by CNN, a person is liable for sexual abuse when they subject another person to sexual contact without consent. Under New York law, “sexual contact” means “any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person for the purpose of gratifying the sexual desire of either party.”
The jury also said Trump defamed Carroll when he denied her story.
As reported by NPR, the jury found that Trump had acted “maliciously, out of hatred, ill will, spite or wanton, reckless, or willful disregard of the rights of another.”
What Are the Consequences?
The jury awarded Carroll a total of $5 million.
In finding Trump liable for battery, the jury awarded Carroll $2 million in compensatory damages and an additional $20,000 in punitive damages.
In finding Trump liable for defamation, the jury awarded Carroll $2.7 million in compensatory damages and an additional $280,000 for punitive damages.
Because the case was a civil case, Trump will face no jail time.
The verdict does not impact Trump’s presidential race. He can continue his bid for the presidency.
What Will Happen Next?
Trump continues to say he has done nothing wrong, and his legal team filed an appeal the day the verdict was announced.
One day after the jury found Trump guilty of defaming Carroll, Trump again spoke publicly about Carroll during a televised town hall on CNN calling, her a “wack job.”
According to the New York Times, Carroll’s attorney Roberta A. Kaplan said she is considering filing a new defamation lawsuit against Trump as he continues to speak publicly about Carroll.
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