US jury finds Donald Trump sexually abused E Jean Carroll

Jury awards Carroll about $5m in damages in civil lawsuit accusing former president of sexual abuse and defamation.

E Jean Carroll reacts after the verdict in New York federal court
E Jean Carroll reacts as she exits a Manhattan federal court following the verdict in the civil case against former US President Donald Trump, in New York City, May 9 [Brendan McDermid/Reuters]
An earlier version of this story said the jury found Trump guilty. That was incorrect. The jury found the former US president liable for sexual abuse and defamation in the civil case.

Donald Trump sexually abused writer E Jean Carroll in the 1990s and then defamed her by branding her a liar, a United States jury has decided, delivering a legal blow to the former US president as he seeks re-election in 2024.

The verdict was read out in a Manhattan federal court on Tuesday afternoon, just hours after jurors began deliberating following a seven-day civil trial.

Carroll had accused the former US president of sexually assaulting her in a New York City department store in the mid-1990s and then defaming her by dismissing her story – told in a 2019 memoir – as a “con job”.

The nine-member jury determined on Tuesday that the ex-president did not rape Carroll, but they did find him liable for sexual abuse and defamation, The New York Times, CNN and other US news outlets reported.

The jurors awarded the former Elle magazine columnist approximately $5m in compensatory and punitive damages. Because this was a civil case, Trump faces no criminal consequences.

His spokesman, Steven Cheung, said on Tuesday that the former president would appeal. That means he will not have to pay the awarded damages so long as the verdict is being challenged in court.

Donald Trump, in a suit and blue tie, speaks into a microphone against a mauve background. A time stamp in the bottom of the picture indicates this is a video still
Former US President Donald Trump answers questions in an October 2022 video deposition that was played during the civil trial last week [Kaplan Hecker & Fink/AP Photo]

Carroll held hands with her lawyers as the verdict was read on Tuesday. She left the courthouse with Kaplan, smiling and wearing sunglasses, and entered a car without speaking to reporters.

“I filed this lawsuit against Donald Trump to clear my name and to get my life back,” Carroll said in a written statement later in the day. “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.”

Trump, who did not attend the New York trial, had dismissed Carroll’s allegations as part of an effort to hurt him politically and drum up sales for her 2019 memoir.

Trump immediately lashed out with a statement on his social media site, claiming again that he does not know Carroll and referring to Tuesday’s verdict as “a disgrace” and “a continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time”.

Former US prosecutor Diana Florence told Al Jazeera that while “appeals are very common” in civil lawsuits, she did not think Trump’s legal team would be able to change the outcome in this case.

“But it doesn’t seem that there was anything egregious [with the trial] that jumps out that says he is going to prevail,” said Florence, adding that the verdict would “very likely” be upheld.

During the trial, Trump’s legal team did not present a defence, instead gambling that jurors would find that Carroll had failed to make a persuasive case.

“What E Jean Carroll has done here is an affront to justice. She has abused this system by bringing a false claim for — amongst other things — money, status, political reasons,” Trump’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, said during closing arguments this week.

But Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, on Monday said a 2005 Access Hollywood video in which Trump said women let him “grab ’em by the p***y” bolstered the accounts of Carroll and other women who accused Trump of sexual assault.

“He admitted on video to doing exactly the kinds of things that have brought us here to this courtroom,” Kaplan said in her closing argument on Monday.

It remains unclear if the verdict will have an effect on Trump’s political chances, as he remains the early frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 2024.

“The folks that are anti-Trump are going to remain that way, the core pro-Trump voters are not going to change, and the ambivalent ones I just don’t think are going to be moved by this type of thing,” Charlie Gerow, a GOP strategist in Pennsylvania, told the Reuters news agency.

The former president faces a host of other legal issues, including criminal charges in New York relating to a hush-money payment made to a porn star in 2016 and a Justice Department investigation into his alleged mishandling of classified documents.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies