New York (AFP) – A US jury found Donald Trump liable Tuesday for sexually abusing and defaming an American former magazine columnist and ordered the ex-president to pay her $5 million in damages.
The nine jurors rejected E. Jean Carroll‘s accusation of rape but upheld her other complaints in the closely watched civil trial following less than three hours of deliberations.
The verdict in the lawsuit is the first time Trump has faced legal consequences over sexual misconduct allegations dating back decades and involving a dozen women.
Carroll, 79, sued Trump last year, alleging that he raped her in the changing room of the luxury Bergdorf Goodman store on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue in 1996.
The former columnist for Elle magazine also claimed that Trump defamed her when he called her “a complete con job” after she went public with the allegation in 2019.
Trump, the 76-year-old frontrunner for the Republican nomination in next year’s presidential election, has called her case a “hoax” and “a lie.”
Carroll told the two-week-long civil trial that the alleged assault had left her feeling “ashamed” and unable to have romantic relationships.
She said it took her more than 20 years to go public because she was “frightened” by Trump.
Her lawyers called to the witness stand two other women who testified that Trump sexually assaulted them decades ago.
Former businesswoman Jessica Leeds told the Manhattan federal court that Trump groped her in the business class section of a flight in the United States in the 1970s.
Journalist Natasha Stoynoff said Trump kissed her without her consent during an interview at his Mar-a-Lago estate in 2005.
Around a dozen women accused Trump of sexual misconduct ahead of the 2016 election that sent him to the White House.
He has denied all the allegations and has never been prosecuted over any of them. No criminal case can stem from Carroll’s lawsuit.
– Porn star case –
Trump did not testify during the proceedings, nor did his defense team call any witnesses.
A video of a sworn deposition he gave in October was played to the jury. In it, Trump called Carroll “a liar” and “really sick person.”
His lawyers argued that Carroll invented the allegation “for money, for political reasons, and for status.”
She filed her lawsuit under a New York law that gave victims of sexual assault a one-year window to sue their alleged abusers decades after attacks may have occurred.
The jury was tasked with deciding whether Carroll’s lawyers proved her case by a preponderance of the evidence, a lower burden than criminal trials which require proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
The case was one of several legal challenges facing Trump that threaten to complicate his bid to regain the presidency.
Last month, he pleaded not guilty in a criminal case related to a hush-money payment made to a porn star just before the 2016 vote.
Trump is also being investigated over his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the southern state of Georgia, his alleged mishandling of classified documents taken from the White House and his involvement in the storming of the US Capitol by his supporters on January 6, 2021.