Trump found liable of battery, defamation in E. Jean Carroll case

The jury awarded $1 million in damages, $1.7 million for reputation repair and $280,000 in punitive damages.

ByAaron Katersky ABCNews logo
Wednesday, May 10, 2023
Trump found liable of battery, defamation in E. Jean Carroll case
A jury in Manhattan found former President Trump liable of battery defamation in connection with claims brought by writer E. Jean Carroll.

NEW YORK -- A jury has found former President Donald Trump liable for battery and defamation in the E. Jean Carroll case.

Carroll, who brought the lawsuit in November, alleged that Trump defamed her in his 2022 Truth Social post by calling her allegations "a Hoax and a lie" and saying "This woman is not my type!" when he denied her claim that Trump raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the 1990s.

The former Elle magazine columnist added a charge of battery under a recently adopted New York law that allows adult survivors of sexual abuse to sue their alleged attacker regardless of the statute of limitations. Trump has denied all allegations that he raped Carroll or defamed her.

WATCH: Trump liable for battery, defamation in E. Jean Carroll suit | ABC News Special Report

A jury has found former President Donald Trump liable for battery and defamation in the E. Jean Carroll case.

The jury awarded Carroll a total of $5 million in the lawsuit. Jury members found that Trump did not rape Carroll but sexually abused her, and awarded damages of $2 million in compensatory damages and $20,000 in punitive damages for battery.

The jury awarded $1 million in damages, $1.7 million for reputation repair, and $280,000 in punitive damages.

The jury reached its verdict after just under three hours of deliberations.

Trump has been accused of sexual misconduct by about two dozen women. Carroll's battery allegation was the first to make it before a jury.

Carroll was seated between two of her attorneys, Roberta Kaplan and Shawn Crowley, as the verdict was read. At one point Crowley put her arm around Carroll, who held hands with Kaplan.

Defense attorney Joe Tacopina was seen conferring with co-counsel Chad Siegel and Perry Brandt.

Before deliberations started, Trump posted on social media, "Waiting for a jury decision on a False Accusation where I, despite being a current political candidate and leading all others in both parties, am not allowed to speak or defend myself, even as hard nosed reporters scream questions about this case at me. In the meantime, the other side has a book falsely accusing me of Rape, & is working with the press. I will therefore not speak until after the trial, but will appeal the Unconstitutional silencing of me, as a candidate, no matter the outcome."

Early in the trial the judge had admonished the defense over Trump's social media posts about Carroll and her allegations. The judge did not address this most recent post, but previously indicated that if Trump wanted to speak about the case he should testify under oath, which Trump declined to do.

In a civil case jurors are allowed to draw a negative inference when a defendant decides not to testify.

"He just decided not to be here. He never looked you in the eye and denied raping Ms. Carroll. Never did that," Carroll's attorney, Michael Ferrara, told jurors during the trial.

Carroll testified during the trial that she ran into Trump near the Bergdorf Goodman entrance and that he asked her to help him buy some lingerie as a gift. The two were laughing and joking, she said, when he led her into a dressing room, shut the door, shoved her up against a wall, and sexually assaulted her.

She told the jury that she first met Trump in 1987 -- but she struggled to pinpoint the date that she alleges he attacked her, which she estimated was sometime around 1996.

"And why is there no date to an event as significant as this in someone's life?" defense attorney Joe Tacopina countered. "It's not a coincidence. With no date, no month, no year, you can't present an alibi."

Carroll's attorneys seized on Trump's deposition last year when he was shown a 1980s-era photograph of Carroll, her then-husband John Johnson, Trump, and his then-wife Ivana Trump -- and he momentarily mistook Carroll for his second wife, Marla Maples.

"That's Marla, yeah. That's my wife," Trump said regarding Carroll, according to the deposition.

"The truth is that E. Jean Carroll, a former cheerleader and Ms. Indiana, was exactly Donald Trump's type," Carroll's attorneys argued in court.

Carroll's attorneys juxtaposed Trump's mistaken identification with his remarks on the infamous 2005 "Access Hollywood" tape, on which he is heard saying about women that "I just start kissing them ... I don't even wait" and that when you're a star you can "grab them by the p----."

"What is Donald Trump doing here?" Carroll's attorney said. "He's telling you in his own words how he treats women. It's his modus operandi."

The jury also heard from two other women who claimed they had been sexually assaulted by Trump, in what Carroll's attorneys said showed a pattern of behavior on Trump's part. Former People magazine writer Natasha Stoynoff testified that she was at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in late 2005 when Trump asked to show her a room in the estate, then closed the door behind her, pushed her against the wall, and started kissing her. She told the jury that she tried to shove him away, and that the alleged encounter ended when a butler entered the room.

Jessica Leeds testified that she was seated next to Trump in the first-class section of a flight to New York in 1979, "when all of a sudden Trump decided to kiss me and grope me." She said that she freed herself when Trump started putting his hand up her skirt, and went "storming back" to the coach section.

Trump, who chose not to testify in his own defense, has previously denied the allegations from both women, as well as from Carroll.

The defense called no witnesses but Trump's attorney, Joe Tacopina, told the jury that Carroll's claim was "an unbelievable work of fiction" and that if the alleged attacker was anyone but Donald Trump, "we're not here. Not on this story."

"What they want is for you to hate him enough to ignore the facts," the attorney said.

"There is no objective evidence to corroborate her claim, including a police report," Tacopina told the jury. "She never went to the police, because it didn't happen."

Tacopina said Carroll "falsely alleged that he raped her," and that's why Trump publicly attacked her.

Tacopina said there was no reason for Trump to appear because Carroll's story was "completely made up" and lacked credibility because she could not pinpoint when the alleged rape occurred.

"And if Donald Trump testified, what could I have asked him?" Tacopina said. "Where were you on some unknown date 27 or 28 years ago?"

Carroll's lawsuit was her second against Trump related to her rape allegation.

She previously sued Trump in 2019 after the then-president denied her rape claim by telling The Hill that Carroll was "totally lying," saying, "I'll say it with great respect: No. 1, she's not my type. No. 2, it never happened. It never happened, OK?" That defamation suit has been caught in a procedural back-and-forth over the question of whether Trump, as president, was acting in his official capacity as an employee of the federal government when he made those remarks.

If Trump is determined to have been acting as a government employee, the U.S. government would substitute as the defendant in that suit -- which means that case would go away, since the government cannot be sued for defamation.

This month's trial took place as Trump seeks the White House for a third time, while facing numerous legal challenges related to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, his handling of classified material after leaving the White House, and possible attempts to interfere in Georgia's 2020 vote. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said last week she would decide whether to file criminal charges against Trump or his allies this summer.