(NEW YORK) — Donald Trump “banged the door closed and lunged at her,” an attorney for writer E. Jean Carroll told jury members as she recounted what Carroll said happened in 1996 at the Bergdorf Goodman department store, during the opening statements of Carroll’s defamation and battery case against the former president, Tuesday in Manhattan federal court.
But Trump attorney Joe 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.”
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 in the 1990s.
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.
Carroll’s attorney, Shawn Crowley, said she was taking jurors “back to an evening in 1996” when Carroll said she bumped into Trump in the department store.
“Trump was famous in New York City. His name was on a bunch of buildings and his face was in the tabloids,” Crowley said. “Carroll was a well-known writer,” she said, and when Trump asked for her help selecting a gift Carroll agreed, thinking it would make for a good story.
“She thought it would be something to laugh about with her friends later,” Crowley said.
The pair moved through the store, joking and laughing, and eventually made their way to the lingerie department on the sixth floor where Trump tossed a lace body suit at her and asked her to try it on, Crowley said, before leading her by the arm to the dressing room, where he lunged at her.
“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.”
Tacopina, in his opening statement, 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.
“She’s abusing the system,” Tacopina said of Carroll. “You cannot let her profit from this process.”
Tacopina insisted that Carroll’s “story isn’t true” and she lacks the facts to convince the jury otherwise.
“E. Jean Carroll cannot produce objective evidence to back up her claim, because it didn’t occur,” Tacopina said. “She can’t tell you the date that she claims to have been raped. She can’t tell you the month that she claims to have been raped. She can’t tell you the season. She can’t even tell you the year she claims to have been raped by Donald Trump.”
Tacopina said Carroll “falsely alleged that he raped her,” and that’s why Trump publicly attacked her.
“E Jean Carroll fabricated a story about Donald Trump while he was president and then made that story the center of her life and her lifestyle,” Tacopina said.
The nine-member jury of six men and three women is weighing Carroll’s defamation and battery claims and deciding potential monetary damages.
“Battery refers to the unjustified touching of another person without the consent of the person touched, with the intent to cause bodily contact that a reasonable person would find offensive,” Judge Lewis Kaplan instructed the jurors.
Trump has repeatedly denied Carroll’s allegations. The trial is expected to last around five days.
Two women are expected to testify during the trial that Carroll told them about the alleged attack shortly after it occurred. Two other women are expected to testify that Trump sexually assaulted them, claims that he denies, as Carroll’s attorneys try to show a pattern of conduct.
The judge has also agreed to allow excerpts of the so-called Access Hollywood tape on which Trump is overheard in 2005 bragging to then-host Billy Bush about groping women.
During the selection of the jury Tuesday morning, the judge told prospective jurors that he was looking to select jurors who are “willing and able to decide this case in a manner that is fair and impartial,” no matter what they may know about those involved.
“The name of the game here is utter fairness and impartiality,” Kaplan said. “The job of the jury will be to decide what did or didn’t happen at the department store, whether Ms. Carroll was or wasn’t raped” — and whether she should be compensated and whether defamation occurred, the judge said.
The judge began questioning prospective jurors with this question: “Is there anything about the nature of this case or the parties that would make it difficult for you to be entirely fair to both parties and to come to a just or impartial verdict?”
He asked prospective jurors about everything from their vaccine status to whether they watched The Apprentice, the reality game show that Trump hosted from 2004-2015.
The judge also asked whether they would find Carroll’s battery claim “less reliable” because she brought it 30 years after it allegedly happened.
Prospective jurors were asked whether they maintain a Twitter account, whether they’ve ever been wrongfully accused of misconduct, and whether they feel Trump has been unfairly treated by the press.
The former president was not present in court Tuesday.
Tacopina told the judge Thursday that Trump will decide whether or not to attend as the trial proceeds.
The civil trial is being heard a block from the criminal courthouse where Trump pleaded not guilty earlier this month to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in connection with an alleged hush money payment to an adult film actress.
Kaplan last week denied Trump’s attempt to delay the start of this week’s trial for a month after Trump’s attorneys sought a four-week delay on the grounds that a “cooling off” period was necessary following intense media coverage of Trump’s criminal indictment.
“There is no justification for an adjournment,” Kaplan ruled. “This case is entirely unrelated to the state prosecution.”
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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