(NEW YORK) — Former Elle columnist E. Jean Carroll, on the first day of testimony in her civil defamation and battery case against former President Donald Trump, told the jury that Trump had raped her.
Carroll, who brought the lawsuit in November, alleges that Trump defamed her in a 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 department store dressing room.
She 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.
“I’m here because Donald Trump raped me,” she testified Wednesday. “And when I wrote about it, he said it didn’t happen. He lied and shattered my reputation. And I’m here to try and get my life back.”
Earlier Wednesday, the jury heard from the former general manager at the Bergdorf Goodman women’s store.
Cheryl Beal, who worked for the department store in the mid-1990s, testified regarding the store’s layout, including the sixth floor where lingerie, couture brands and designer sportswear were sold, and where Carroll said Trump raped her in a dressing room while few, if any, people were around.
“It wasn’t one of our busiest floors,” Beal said.
Before the jury entered the courtroom, Carroll’s attorney read aloud parts of two social media posts by Donald Trump that she said violated the judge’s orders.
On Truth Social Wednesday morning, Trump posted that Carroll’s legal team is being “financed by a big political donor that they said didn’t exist, only to get caught lying about that.”
He also posted regarding Carroll, “She said there was a dress, using the ol’ Monica Lewinsky ‘stuff,’ then she didn’t want to produce it.”
Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, said the posts violated the court’s orders against “comments about lawyers and one about DNA.”
“These are out-of-court comments obviously,” said defense attorney Joe Tacopina, but Judge Lewis Kaplan cut him off, saying, “…where for two years he refused to give a DNA sample, and now wants it in the case.”
“What you’re trying to do is to get away from a statement by your client, a public statement, that on the face of it seems entirely inappropriate,” Kaplan told Tacopina.
Tacopina said he would address the posts with Trump.
“I will speak to my client and ask him to refrain from any posts about this case,” Tacopina said.
Kaplan said he hoped the lawyer was successful.
“We’re getting into an area in which your client may or may not be tampering with a new source of potential liability, and I think you know what I mean,” Kaplan said.
It remains unclear if Trump will testify himself at any point. The judge demanded to know this week whether Trump will appear, telling the defense that it was time to “fish or cut bait.”
The trial is expected to last about five days.
During opening statements Tuesday, Carroll’s attorney told the jury that Trump “banged the door closed and lunged at” Carroll as she recounted what Carroll said happened in a dressing room of the department store.
“Ms. Carroll will tell you she was shocked,” Crowley said.
In 2019, when Carroll decided to write about the alleged encounter, Crowley said that “Donald Trump’s response was explosive.”
“Suddenly Ms. Carroll was all over the headlines. The most powerful person in the world … had branded her a liar.”
But Tacopina told the jury in his opening statement that Carroll’s defamation and battery claims are an “affront to justice,” accusing the writer of taking Trump to court “for money, for political reasons and for status.”
Tacopina told jurors that “you can hate Donald Trump” — but that the appropriate place to express those feelings is at the ballot box and not in a court of law.
Tacopina said Carroll “falsely alleged that he raped her,” and that’s why Trump publicly attacked her.
The nine-member jury of six men and three women is weighing Carroll’s defamation and battery claims and deciding potential monetary damages.
This week’s trial is taking 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 the Georgia’s 2020 vote. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said Monday she would decide whether to file criminal charges against Trump or his allies this summer.
Carroll’s lawsuit is her second against Trump related to her rape allegation.
Carroll 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.
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