E. Jean Carroll's rape lawsuit against Trump heads to trial: Here's everything we know

The former president has been accused by the author of sexually assaulting her in the dressing room of a luxury department store in the mid-1990s.

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E. Jean Carroll.

Jury selection in E. Jean Carroll’s rape lawsuit against former President Donald Trump is set to begin Tuesday in a New York federal court. Carroll, an author and former Elle magazine advice columnist, alleges that Trump raped her in a dressing room in Bergdorf Goodman, a luxury department store, in the mid-1990s. Trump has denied the allegation.

It is one of two civil lawsuits filed by Carroll against Trump. A related defamation case was placed on indefinite hold, but the sexual battery suit is proceeding. Carroll is seeking unspecified damages and a retraction of Trump’s response.

Here’s everything you need to know about the case ahead of the trial, which is expected to last up to two weeks.

What are the allegations?

E. Jean Carroll and Donald Trump.
E. Jean Carroll and Donald Trump. (Seth Wenig/AP Photo, Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Carroll says she encountered Trump by chance in 1995 or 1996 at Bergdorf Goodman, where he asked her for advice on buying a gift for “a girl.”

They eventually ended up in the lingerie department, Carroll said, where Trump coerced her into a dressing room.

“The moment the dressing-room door is closed, he lunges at me, pushes me against the wall,” she wrote in a 2019 memoir. “He seizes both my arms and pushes me up against the wall a second time, and, as I become aware of how large he is, he holds me against the wall with his shoulder and jams his hand under my coatdress and pulls down my tights.”

Carroll said she ultimately kneed him, got away and ran out of the store.

In a 2019 New York Times podcast, two of Carroll's friends said she told them about the alleged attack soon after she alleges it occurred.

But Carroll never informed police or anyone else until she went public with the story in her memoir and an excerpt published in New York magazine.

What was Trump’s response?

Donald Trump.
Trump at a rally in Davenport, Iowa, last month. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

The former president has staunchly denied the allegations.

“I don’t know this woman, have no idea who she is, other than it seems she got a picture of me many years ago, with her husband, shaking my hand on a reception line at a celebrity charity event,” Trump said in October, after being ordered by a judge to be deposed in the case.

In that deposition, Trump quipped about Carroll's looks. "Physically, she's not my type," he said during questioning.

But when he was shown a photograph that was taken in 1987 of him socializing with Carroll, Trump mistook her for his ex-wife Marla Maples.

“That’s Marla, yeah,” he said, according to a transcript of the deposition. “That’s my wife.”

What about the statute of limitations?

E. Jean Carroll at her home in New York state.
Carroll at her home in New York state. (Eva Deitch for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

While the window for pressing criminal charges closed long ago, the New York Legislature passed a bill — the Adult Survivors Act — late last year, which allows adult victims of sexual assault and abuse to bring lawsuits against their alleged perpetrators regardless of when the alleged abuse took place.

Carroll, who had publicly lobbied state lawmakers to pass the legislation, filed her battery lawsuit in November, shortly after New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the bill into law.

Trump has been accused by more than 20 women of sexual misconduct, ranging from inappropriate touching to rape. None have gone to trial — until now.

Will Trump appear in court?

Donald Trump departs Trump Tower.
Trump departs Trump Tower in New York City on April 13. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

The former president has a right to appear in court as the defendant in this case, but he’s not legally required to do so. Carroll’s attorney has stated in court filings that she does not intend to call Trump to testify because his earlier deposition in the case can be played in court.

Last week, the federal judge presiding over the case rejected a request from Trump’s attorneys to preemptively excuse the former president’s potential absence from the upcoming trial.

In a letter to the court, Trump attorney Joseph Tacopina wrote that while Trump “wishes to appear at trial,” doing so would place substantial “logistical and financial burdens upon New York City, its residents and the court itself,” citing the street closures and increased security in and around the courthouse that were required for his recent arraignment, just a few blocks away.

In the event that Trump chooses not to appear, Tacopina asked that U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan issue special instructions to the jury explaining that the former president's absence in this case would be designed to avoid such burdens and that “his presence is excused unless and until he is called by either party to testify.”

Tacopina stated in another letter that Trump will decide during the trial whether he will attend. Carroll’s attorney said she plans to appear in court throughout the trial.

What was the judge’s response?

Donald Trump's motorcade departs.
Trump's motorcade departs after he gave a deposition to New York Attorney General Letitia James in New York City on April 13. (Jeenah Moon/Reuters)

Kaplan rejected this request in a letter to Tacopina last week, calling it “premature” since Trump is not legally required to appear or testify.

“The decision whether to attend or to testify is his alone to make,” Kaplan wrote. “There is nothing for the Court to excuse."

The judge also dismissed the idea that Trump’s appearance would pose too many logistical challenges, noting that Trump has been aware of the date for this trial since February, giving him “ample time” to make any necessary arrangements. Not only that, but Kaplan pointed out that the former president is planning to hold a campaign event in New Hampshire this Thursday, three days into the trial.

"If the Secret Service can protect him at that event, certainly the Secret Service, the Marshals Service and the City of New York can see to his security in this very secure federal courthouse," Kaplan wrote.

Trump's own words can be used against him

Donald Trump delivers remarks.
Trump delivers remarks at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., on April 4 after being arraigned on criminal charges in New York. (Marco Bello/Reuters)

Kaplan ruled last month that Trump's own past misogynistic comments about women would be admissible as evidence at trial.

According to the Associated Press, some of those remarks were captured on audiotape and will be played for the jury.

Despite objections from Trump's lawyers, Kaplan ruled that the "Access Hollywood" remarks made by Trump, in which he bragged about his own behavior when he was around beautiful women, are also admissible.

“I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait," Trump said in the infamous video, in which he later added, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”