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A jury found that Donald Trump sexually abused E. Jean Carroll but not that he raped her.
Trump's lawyers want to reduce the jury's $2 million damages award on that basis.
The judge says Trump "raped" Carroll "as many people commonly understand the word 'rape.'"
In May, a jury in Manhattan federal court concluded that Donald Trump sexually abused E. Jean Carroll and defamed her when he called her a liar, awarding Carroll $5 million in damages.
The jury did not, Trump's lawyers trumpeted at the time, find that Trump "raped" Carroll — the central part of her allegations.
The judge isn't so persuaded.
In an opinion issued on Wednesday, US District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who presided over the trial, wrote that the trial evidence demonstrated Trump "raped" Carroll in the plain sense of the word.
"The finding that Ms. Carroll failed to prove that she was 'raped' within the meaning of the New York Penal Law does not mean that she failed to prove that Mr. Trump 'raped' her as many people commonly understand the word 'rape,'" Kaplan wrote. "Indeed, as the evidence at trial recounted below makes clear, the jury found that Mr. Trump in fact did exactly that."
Kaplan's opinion denied a motion from Trump's lawyers to reduce the $2 million in damages the jury awarded Carroll for the injuries she received as a result of Trump's assault on her.
Caroll's lawsuit alleged that, in the mid-1990s, Trump raped her in the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan. She said that Trump pushed her against the wall of a dressing room, inserted his fingers into her vagina, and then, she believes, put his penis into her. Years later, Trump defamed her when he called her a liar for disclosing the story, the lawsuit claimed.
She was able to bring the lawsuit, in November 2022, because New York state passed a law in the wake of the #MeToo movement that allows sexual misconduct accusers to bring civil lawsuits when they'd otherwise be barred by the statute of limitations.
The jury had to decide whether Trump was liable for "battery" against Carroll. The definitions of the acts that could constitute "battery," Kaplan told jurors, were drawn from New York state's penal code. They had to determine whether Trump "raped," "sexually abused," or "forcibly touched" Carroll.
The difference between "rape" and "sexual abuse," as Kaplan told the jurors, was that "rape" means "any penetration of the penis into the vaginal opening" while "sexual abuse" means "any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person for the purpose of gratifying the sexual desire of either person."
In the end, jurors agreed that Trump sexually abused Carrol but not that he raped her.
"Ms. Carroll testified about the specific physical memory and excruciating pain of the digital penetration at great length and in greater detail than the penile penetration," Kaplan wrote in his opinion. "She acknowledged that she could not see exactly what Mr. Trump inserted but testified on the basis of what she felt."
Based on that distinction, Trump's lawyers had asked the judge to reduce the $5 million damages award. (Trump is also appealing the entire case.)
Carroll is taking Trump to court — again
In his opinion upholding the jury verdict, Kaplan took issue with the denials that Trump "raped" Carroll.
Ordinary dictionaries, the FBI, the US military code, other state statutes, and the American Psychological Association, and "common modern parlance" all define "rape" in ways that comport with the jury's findings, beyond "the narrow, technical meaning of a particular section of the New York Penal Law," he wrote.
Trump's argument was "incorrect at every step," according to Kaplan.
"Mr. Trump's argument therefore ignores the bulk of the evidence at trial, misinterprets the jury's verdict, and mistakenly focuses on the New York Penal Law definition of 'rape' to the exclusion of the meaning of that word as it often is used in everyday life and of the evidence of what actually occurred between Ms. Carroll and Mr. Trump," Kaplan wrote.
Carroll is scheduled to take Trump to court once again, in January, over similar claims.
The trial earlier this year was for a lawsuit Carroll brought in November of 2022, referred in court as "Carroll II."
She first sued Trump in 2019, in a lawsuit known as "Carroll I," when she first went public with her accusations and he called her a politically-motivated liar.
Carroll I was tied up in courts over questions of whether Trump was acting in his presidential role while making the denials, thus rendering him immune in the case.
Earlier this month, the Justice Department dropped its defense of Trump, clearing the way for another trial.
"Now that the court has denied Trump's motion for a new trial or to decrease the amount of the verdict, E Jean Carroll looks forward to receiving the $5 million in damages that the jury awarded her in Carroll II," Carroll's lawyer Roberta Kaplan said in a statement Wednesday. "She also looks forward to continuing to hold Trump accountable for what he did to her at the trial in Carrol I, which is scheduled to begin on January 15, 2024."
An attorney for Trump didn't immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
Read the original article on Business Insider