Former President Donald Trump, center, departs Trump Tower in New York on Jan. 16, 2024.
David Dee Delgado | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A lawyer for writer E. Jean Carroll urged jurors on Tuesday to force former President Donald Trump to pay for repeatedly defaming her in denying her account of him sexually assaulting her in a New York department store in the 1990s.
“Members of the jury, it’s time to hold him accountable and show him no one is above the law,” Carroll’s lawyer Shawn Crowley said in opening arguments of Trump’s defamation trial in Manhattan federal court.
“Twenty-five years after sexually assaulting her, he keeps doing it and it’s time for him to stop,” Crowley said.
The lawyer noted that Trump’s defamatory statements — which are not in dispute in this civil trial — began when he was still president, and have continued to the day of the trial.
“You will hear how his statements from 2019 harmed her reputation as a respected writer and advice columnist,” Crowley told the nine jurors who will determine monetary damages.
“Led his followers to go after her, attack her character and threaten her life, calling her a liar, and accusing her of making it up to get money,” the lawyer said. “People telling her she should go to jail, that they will rape her and that she needs to die.”
“You will need to decide how much money he needs to pay for ruining her life and living every day of her life living in fear from the hate and threats,” Crowley said.
But Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba brushed aside those claims.
“Ms. Carroll will try to convince you that her reputation has been harmed and she suffered throughout this ordeal,” Habba said. “The evidence will show you her career has prospered and she has been thrust back into the limelight like she always wanted.”
Habba also said, “I want the jury to remember one thing: This case is not about assault … this case is about defamation.”
“Ms. Carroll did not minimize the effects of the defamation. She went on talk shows and did interviews but she expects you to give her an award for every negative comment that was thrown her way,” Habba said. “But I need you to remember this: She had a duty to minimize the statements, not exacerbate the statements.”
“She was not harmed, it’s the opposite. She has gained more fame and more notoriety than she could ever have dreamed of,” Habba added.
The nine jurors seated include an emergency medicine physician, a property manager, a retired track supervisor for New York’s transit agency, a publicist and an unemployed physical therapist. The jury is anonymous.
Trump was in the courtroom as prospective jurors began being questioned for the trial, which kicked off a day after he scored a landslide win in the Iowa Republican caucuses. But he left to travel to New Hampshire for a campaign event before opening statements were made by Habba and Crowley.
The trial will determine just one question: what damages Trump should pay Carroll for defamatory statements he made about her while he was president, and then again last year, denying her claim that he raped her in a Manhattan department store in the mid-1990s. Carroll’s lawyers want him to pay at least $10 million.
In this courtroom sketch, former U.S. President Donald Trump and writer E. Jean Carroll attend jury selection in the second civil trial after Carroll accused Trump of raping her in the 1990s, at Manhattan Federal Court in New York City on Jan. 16, 2024.
Jane Rosenberg | Reuters
Three people were excused from the jury pool after answering “yes” when they were asked if they would be unable to give both sides a fair trial and decide a verdict based only on the evidence presented.
One would-be juror said she knew Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump, having worked for her on communications for her company in 2017. That woman said she could be impartial and remained in the jury pool.
A man in the jury pool said he knew Carroll’s lawyer Roberta Kaplan, having worked together on pro bono legal matters. He also said he could be impartial in the case.
Two people answered “yes” when asked if they believed that the 2020 election, in which Trump lost to President Joe Biden, was stolen. Trump, who has made that claim for more than three years, turned around in his seat to see who those would-be jurors were.
Judge Lewis Kaplan began the proceedings by quickly rejecting a series of requests by Trump’s lawyers, including a motion that the trial be postponed so that he can attend his mother-in-law’s funeral Thursday.
A jury in a trial last fall found that Trump had sexually abused Carroll in a Manhattan department store in the mid-1990s and had defamed her in late 2022 in statements denying the allegation. That jury, which did not find him liable for raping Carroll, ordered him to pay her $5 million.
E. Jean Carroll arrives for her defamation trial against Former President Donald Trump at New York Federal Court in New York City on Jan. 16, 2024.
Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images
Trump is appealing the verdict in that case.
Judge Kaplan, who has presided over both cases, in September said the verdict in the first trial, which found that Carroll was telling the truth about Trump assaulting her, “precludes Mr. Trump from contesting the falsity of his 2019 statements” about her.
Trump blasted the judge and Carroll in several posts on his Truth Social site Tuesday morning.
In one post, he wrote, “have been considered an A-List celebrity for many decades,” and said he had been “wrongfully accused” by Carroll.
“She has been ‘all over the place’ on the timing of this alleged ‘incident,’ which never took place, and is being coached by Lunatic Radical Left Democrat operative attorney, Roberta Kaplan,” Trump ranted. “I am the only one who has been injured by this attempted EXTORTION.”
On Monday, Trump’s lawyer Joseph Tacopina withdrew from the case, and from a Manhattan Supreme Court criminal case where Trump is charged with falsifying business records related to a 2016 hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.
Tacopina, whose other celebrity clients have included New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, and rappers Meek Mill and and A$AP Rocky, would not say why he was no longer representing Trump.
Trump in a social media post Tuesday morning claimed the new trial is another example of his political enemies trying to harm his chances of regaining the White House.
“The Biden encouraged Witch Hunt in Lower Manhattan to fight against a FAKE Case from a woman I have never met, seen, or touched (Celebrity Lines don’t count!),” Trump wrote in his Truth Social post.
“Naturally, it starts right after Iowa, and during the very important New Hampshire Primary where, despite their sinister attempts, I will be tonight! It is a giant Election Interference Scam, pushed and financed by political operatives. I had no idea who this woman was. PURE FICTION!” he wrote.
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