For the first time in U.S. history, a former president has been legally designated as a sexual predator by a court ruling.
In a civil lawsuit against former US President Donald Trump, a New York jury ruled on Tuesday that Trump sexually abused advice columnist E Jean Carroll in a department store changing room 27 years ago. This landmark verdict legally labels a former US president as a sexual predator for the first time. However, since this is a civil case rather than a criminal one, the only legal consequence Trump may face is financial.
During the trial, the judge explained to the jury that a finding of sexual abuse would require two elements: firstly, that Donald Trump had engaged in sexual contact with E Jean Carroll without her consent through the use of force, and secondly, that this was done for the purpose of sexual gratification.
Following less than three hours of deliberation, the jury found Trump liable for sexual abuse, but did not find him guilty of rape. The jury awarded $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages, with $2 million attributed to the sexual abuse count and close to $3 million for defamation. The latter was in reference to Trump’s branding of Carroll as a liar.
Prior to the announcement of the verdict in the emotionally charged trial, Judge Lewis A Kaplan warned those present in the courtroom against disruptive behavior: “No shouting. No jumping up and down. No race for the door.”
Following the verdict, as E Jean Carroll was escorted to a waiting car, she expressed her satisfaction, stating, “We’re very happy.”
George Conway, a conservative lawyer and vocal critic of Trump, who had encouraged Carroll to file the lawsuit, congratulated Carroll’s legal team on Twitter, writing, “God bless E Jean Carroll and congratulations to Roberta Kaplan and her team for a job well done.”
Donald Trump took to his social media platform, Truth Social, to share his response to the verdict, stating, “I have absolutely no idea who this woman is. The verdict is a disgrace – a continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time.” It is worth noting that this is not the first time Trump has used the term “witch hunt” to describe allegations of sexual misconduct made against him.
During his deposition, which was made public last week, Donald Trump appeared to confuse a picture of E Jean Carroll in his company with a picture of his second wife, Marla Maples.
Following the announcement of the verdict, Trump’s legal team released a statement criticizing the case as “bogus” and stating that they would appeal the decision. They added, “We are confident that we will ultimately win this case.”
Despite his legal troubles, Trump has continued to enjoy significant support in the realm of politics, with polling showing him leading by wide margins in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Nevertheless, he remains under significant legal scrutiny.
Last month, in New York, Donald Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 criminal charges of falsifying business records in connection with a hush-money payment to the porn star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election.
Trump is also facing the possibility of criminal charges related to his attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia. Additionally, he is the subject of a federal investigation into his actions surrounding the election, including his alleged involvement in inciting the US Capitol attack.
A federal special counsel is currently investigating the storage of classified documents at Trump’s Florida estate, and in New York, he is facing a civil suit related to his business and tax affairs.
The verdict in the Carroll case was reached by a jury comprised of three women and six men, who were reportedly convinced by E Jean Carroll’s testimony over the course of three days. During this time, Carroll described an incident that allegedly took place in a changing room at a New York department store in 1996.
Donald Trump’s attorney, Joe Tacopina, had claimed that E Jean Carroll’s own words would be enough to disprove her allegations of sexual abuse, arguing that she had conspired with her friends to falsely accuse Trump due to their dislike of his politics. However, despite seven days of testimony, Tacopina was unable to substantiate these claims.
Throughout the trial, Carroll testified that the alleged attack had left her unable to engage in romantic relationships, and accused Trump of damaging her reputation by denying the attack when she first went public in 2019. Following this, she was fired by her employer, Elle, within months. Despite this, Trump continued to call Carroll a liar, even going so far as to label the allegations a “made up SCAM” following the first day of her testimony.
Carroll testified that she followed Trump to the dressing rooms, where he pushed her against a wall and began kissing and touching her. She said Trump then pinned her against the wall, pulled down her tights, and raped her.
After the attack, Carroll said Trump looked at her and said: “You’re a real phony. You’re really not my type, but you’ll do.”
Carroll added that she did not tell anyone about the assault for many years because she was afraid of being attacked and not believed. She said she decided to speak out after watching Trump’s denials of sexual assault during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Carroll testified that Trump then pinned her against the wall and forcibly penetrated her. She said she managed to push him off and ran out of the dressing room. She did not report the incident to the police at the time, explaining that she feared for her safety and did not want to be publicly humiliated.
Carroll testified that she was in shock after the attack and didn’t want to attract attention or make a scene in the crowded store. She said she also blamed herself for going into the dressing room with Trump and felt ashamed. As for why she didn’t come forward earlier, she said she didn’t want to disrupt her life or her work, and was afraid of retribution from Trump and his supporters. She also said that the #MeToo movement, which gained momentum after the 2016 election, gave her the courage to speak out.
Carroll’s testimony highlighted the trauma and shame often associated with sexual assault and the reluctance of victims to come forward. The pressure to scream or report the assault immediately is often used to discredit the testimony of survivors and keep them silent. Carroll’s explanation that she was too ashamed to go to the police sheds light on the societal pressures that silence victims and underscores the importance of supporting survivors in coming forward and seeking justice.
Carroll initially had no intention of speaking out about what happened between her and Trump, but she changed her mind as the #MeToo movement gained momentum and more women began sharing their stories of sexual assault and harassment.
After Trump denied her allegation of rape, Carroll sued him for defamation because she had expected him to deny only the non-consensual aspect of the encounter. She was devastated by the damage to her reputation, as even people who knew her began to view her with pity and suspicion. Despite her negative views on Trump’s character and presidency, Carroll stated that her decision to sue him was not motivated by her political beliefs.
Carroll emphasized that she was not seeking revenge against Trump for political reasons, but for personal reasons.
When asked if she had any regrets about accusing Trump of rape, Carroll’s voice trembled as she responded.
“I’ve regretted this decision countless times, but ultimately, having the opportunity to finally have my day in court means everything to me,” she said, tears streaming down her face.
SOURCE: BBC AND NEWS AGENCIES