NEW YORK CITY — A jury in a civil trial held in lower Manhattan found that former President Donald Trump sexually abused the writer E. Jean Carroll in a dressing room in a Bergdorf Goodman department store in the mid-1990s, and defamed her after she went public about the incident in 2019, in that he denied that the incident had occurred.
But the jury, which was made up of six men and three women, also found that Carroll did not prove that Trump raped Carroll. The mixed decision, which was unanimous, took the jury less than three hours to reach, and awarded Carroll a total of $5 million in damages.
Carroll sued Trump under the Adult Survivors Act, a New York state law passed late last year, which gave adult victims of sexual assault and abuse one year to bring lawsuits against their alleged perpetrators regardless of when the alleged abuse took place.
Trump responded to the verdict with an all-caps post on his social media platform, Truth Social, writing: “I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHO THIS WOMAN IS. THIS VERDICT IS A DISGRACE - A CONTINUATION OF THE GREATEST WITCH HUNT OF ALL TIME!”
Yahoo News was in the courtroom throughout the trial. Here are some key moments that led to Tuesday’s decision.
1. Carroll’s three days of testimony
During the first three days of the trial, E. Jean Carroll described in painstaking and, at times graphic detail, her recollection of the alleged assault, and pushed back on attempts by Trump’s attorneys to undermine her credibility.
Carroll, now 79, recalled running into Trump at Bergdorf Goodman in the mid-1990s and agreeing to help him shop for a gift for a woman. They engaged in flirtatious banter as they explored various sections of the store, Carroll said. But what began as a light-hearted, “very joshing” encounter quickly turned “absolutely dark” when, according to Carroll, Trump led her into a dressing room in the lingerie department and shut the door behind him.
Carroll, occasionally choking back tears, told the jury that Trump shoved her against the wall “so hard my head banged,” pulled down her tights and shoved his fingers inside her vagina, then his penis.
During cross examination, Trump attorney Joe Tacopina sought to poke holes in Carroll’s testimony, zeroing in on the fact that she could not recall the exact date of the alleged assault, and questioning why she did not scream for help during the alleged attack.
“You can’t beat up on me for not screaming,” Carroll pushed back, arguing that one of the reasons many women don’t come forward about sexual assault is because they are often asked why they didn’t scream.
“I’m telling you, he raped me whether I screamed or not,” she declared. “I don’t need an excuse for not screaming.”
2. Two other women testify under oath about alleged assaults by Trump
Among the witnesses Carroll’s attorneys called to testify were two other women who claim that Trump assaulted them in a similar manner.
The first woman, Jessica Leeds, testified that Trump kissed and groped her without her consent during a flight to New York in 1979. The second woman, former People Magazine reporter Natasha Stoynoff, told jurors that she was interviewing Trump and his wife, Melania, at their Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida in 2005, when Trump led her into an empty room and forcefully kissed her.
Both women described how they were motivated to speak publicly about their alleged attacks during Trump’s first presidential campaign in 2016 and, specifically, after the release of the now-infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Trump was caught on a hot mic talking about how he likes to kiss and grope beautiful women without waiting for them to consent.
Carroll’s attorneys pointed to the testimony given by Leeds and Stoynoff, as well as Trump’s own words on the "Access Hollywood" tape, as evidence of a pattern of behavior engaged in by Trump, who has been accused by more than 20 women of inappropriate sexual conduct.
3. Trump’s taped deposition testimony
Trump declined to appear at the trial in person, but the jury nevertheless heard from the former president in clips of a taped deposition that he provided to Carroll’s lawyers last fall.
In his deposition, Trump repeated his claim that he didn’t know Carroll and that the alleged encounter at Bergdorf’s “never happened.” He also reiterated his assertion that Carroll is “not my type,” arguing that he had the “right to be insulting” given the accusation of rape, before telling Carroll’s attorney Roberta Kaplan, “You wouldn’t be a choice of mine either, if I’m being honest. I hope you’re not offended.”
However, when presented with a photograph from the mid-1990s of himself, his wife at the time, Ivana, and Carroll and her then-husband, Trump mistakenly identified Carroll as his former wife Marla Maples, whom he married after divorcing Ivana.
During closing arguments on Monday, Kaplan reminded the jury of this mixup, citing it as proof that Carroll was "exactly his type."
In the clips of Trump’s deposition testimony that were played in court, the former president was also asked about his comments on the “Access Hollywood” tape, in which he is heard saying of beautiful women: “I just start kissing them, it’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the p***y.”
While Trump repeated his previous assertion that his words were “locker room talk,” he also didn’t deny that they were true.
“Historically, that’s true with stars,” Trump told Kaplan during the deposition. “If you look over the last million years, that’s what’s been largely true of the stars — unfortunately or fortunately.”
Asked whether he considers himself to be a star, Trump replied, “I think I can say that, yeah.”
4. Trump declined to testify
After hearing testimony from 11 witnesses for the plaintiff’s side, attorneys for Trump rested their case last week without calling a single witness, including Trump himself, to testify in his defense.
Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is not related to Carroll’s lawyer, even gave Trump the opportunity to change his mind and file a motion to request to testify over the weekend, but no such motion was filed by the Sunday deadline set by the judge.
Throughout the trial, Kaplan repeatedly admonished Trump’s attorneys and sustained a variety of objections from the other side during their cross examination of witnesses, prompting Trump’s team to request a mistrial, which was denied.
5. Trump lawyer’s closing argument
Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina used his closing argument on Monday to argue that the case against the former president was “outrageous” and motivated by money and politics, and that Carroll’s allegations were “unbelievable” and an “affront to justice” that minimized the experience of “real rape victims.”
Tacopina described Carroll’s account of the alleged encounter with Trump as "completely made up," and suggested that it had been inspired by a 2012 episode of "Law & Order." The episode concerned a rape in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room, and the lawyers noted that under oath, Carroll even described the television storyline as an “astonishing coincidence.”
On rebuttal, Carroll’s attorneys said her testimony about the “Law & Order” episode was taken out of context, and argued that if she had in fact been lying, her story would probably have had fewer gaps and inconsistencies.
While Carroll’s attorneys emphasized the fact that Trump “didn’t even bother to show up here in person,” Tacopina argued that Carroll’s claims were too ridiculous for him to call Trump to testify about them in court.
“What could I have asked Donald Trump?” Tacopina said. “Where were you on some unknown date, 27 or 28 years ago?”