What to Know E. Jean Carroll’s Civil Trial Against Trump for Rape and Defamation

Jury Selection Begins In Magazine Columnist E. Jean Carroll's Rape Allegation Trial Against Donald Trump
Jury Selection Begins In Magazine Columnist E. Jean Carroll's Rape Allegation Trial Against Donald Trump
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Magazine Columnist E. Jean Carroll leaves after the first day of her civil trial against former President Donald Trump at Manhattan Federal Court in New York City on April 25, 2023. Credit - Michael M. Santiago—Getty Images

Writer E. Jean Carroll testified in a civil trial this week against former President Donald Trump, alleging that he sexually assaulted her over 25 years ago in a New York Department store, and then defamed her after she spoke out about it in 2019.

A prominent 79-year-old former columnist for Elle Magazine, Carroll is one of more than 20 women who have accused the former president of sexual misconduct since the 1980s. Trump has denied all the allegations—including Carroll’s—and few have ever resulted in legal action. The trial, which is the result of Carroll filing a lawsuit in 2022, began on Tuesday and on Wednesday Carroll testified and underwent an aggressive cross-examination in court by Trump’s lawyer.

Here’s what to know about the case.

The allegations

Carroll alleges that Trump, 76, violently attacked and raped her in a changing room at Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan in the mid-1990s. Trump has denied the allegations and previously said he had never met Carroll.

Carroll first disclosed the alleged assault in New York magazine in June 2019 while Trump was in office. Trump accused Carroll of lying to boost sales for her upcoming memoir, What Do We Need Men For?, where Carroll details the alleged assault. Carroll responded with a defamation suit against the former president in November 2019, claiming that Trump’s accusation that she lied was damaging to her reputation and career.

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“I am filing this on behalf of every woman who has ever been harassed, assaulted, silenced, or spoken up only to be shamed, fired, ridiculed and belittled,” Carroll said in a statement upon filing the defamation suit in 2019. “No person in this country should be above the law—including the president.”

Carroll has said that all the attention she received after speaking out and Trump’s continued insults toward her cost her heaps of backlash on social media and her job at Elle magazine.

The suit was delayed in court for years, until Carroll filed a new suit in November 2022, renewing the defamation suit and including additional statements from Trump. She also added a battery claim after the Adult Survivors Act passed—a New York law that permits adult sexual violence survivors to sue for attacks that occurred decades ago, outside former statutes of limitations.

Trump has maintained his innocence and released a statement on Truth Social in October 2022 saying, “Carroll is not telling the truth, is a woman who I had nothing to do with, didn’t know, and would have no interest in knowing her if I ever had the chance.” He added that Carroll is “not his type.”

Carroll is seeking an unspecified amount of money in the case.

The trial

On Tuesday, Carroll’s attorney, Shawn Crowley, described during opening statements what Carroll said about how she and Trump bumped into each other at the department store, and while the two were in a dressing room, Trump pushed her up against a wall and sexually assaulted her. On Wednesday, Carroll took the stand with a detailed account of her alleged assault.

“I’m here because Donald Trump raped me and when I wrote about it, he said it didn’t happen. He lied and shattered my reputation. I’m here to try to get my life back,” Carroll said in court.

Trump’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, questioned Carroll for hours, in an apparent attempt to raise doubt on Carroll’s story. He asked Carroll detailed questions about why she didn’t scream and how she claimed to try and fight Trump off. “I’m telling you, he raped me, whether I screamed or not,” Carroll said in court.

The presiding judge, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, rebuked Tacopina, at one point calling the lawyer’s questions “argumentative.” The judge also warned that Trump had to cool his ongoing criticism of Carroll on social media that persisted this week.

In court, Tacopina emphasized Carroll’s uncertainty in the exact date of the alleged assault, arguing that it was impossible for Trump to explain his alibi without a specific time. Tacopina also suggested that Carroll had political motives to sue Trump, given her history voting for Democrats.

The nine jurors (six men and three women) presiding over the case were chosen out of 100, and are set to be kept publicly anonymous throughout the trial.

“If jurors’ identities were disclosed, there would be a strong likelihood of unwanted media attention to the jurors, influence attempts, and/or of harassment or worse of jurors by supporters of Mr. Trump,” Kaplan wrote in a decision in March.

It’s not clear if Trump will appear in court for the trial after Tacopina told the judge he wasn’t sure. On Tuesday, Kaplan told Tacopina he would need to know by Friday for security reasons if Trump does make an appearance.

On Wednesday on Truth Social, Trump continued to call the case a “made up scam” and “witch hunt.”Trump is also currently facing criminal charges in New York for allegedly paying hush money to a former porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election. Trump has also denied any wrongdoing in the case.