Nine New Yorkers will decide whether Donald Trump is liable for the alleged rape of a journalist in a Manhattan department store almost 30 years ago, when jury deliberations begin on Tuesday in a civil case brought against the former US president.
E Jean Carroll, a former advice columnist and television personality, filed the lawsuit last year, after a New York law allowed claims previously barred by the statute of limitations to proceed for a limited time period.
The 79-year-old alleged that Trump sexually assaulted her in the dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman’s flagship Fifth Avenue store, and subsequently defamed her after she spoke publicly about it in 2019.
“Donald Trump has a modus operandi,” Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, told jurors her closing argument on Monday. During the two-week trial she and the rest of Carroll’s legal team tried to show similarities between the accounts of women who have accused the former president of rape, such as flirting in a semi-public place followed by a “sudden lunge”.
“What happened to E Jean Carroll fits this pattern,” Kaplan added, referring repeatedly to the Access Hollywood tape that first surfaced during the 2016 presidential campaign, in which Trump bragged about grabbing women’s genitals. during the trial.
Trump did not attend the trial and declined to testify in his own defense. A lawyer for the former president, Joe Tacopina, said Carroll’s claim was “an unbelievable work of fiction”.
“You can think that Donald Trump is a rude and crude person, and that [Carroll’s] story makes no sense,” he told the jury. He argued that Carroll did not go to the police to report the assault “because they would have investigated”, and found holes in her story.
Tacopina had previously reduced Carroll to tears on the witness stand after questioning her on why she did not scream during the alleged attack. Carroll said she had reacted in this way because “it was startling to me that in 2023 a woman would be asked [the question]”.
On Thursday, Judge Lewis Kaplan gave the defense one last chance to decide whether the former president would testify, after Trump told reporters at a golf course in Ireland that he was returning to New York to “confront” Carroll. Trump’s lawyers declined the offer, and the defense rested without calling any of its own witnesses.
In a sworn deposition taken earlier this year, Trump said he did not know Carroll, and branded her accusations a “hoax”. He added that the journalist was “not his type”, which Kaplan pointed out was a response Trump had also given to claims of rape made by Jessica Leeds and Natasha Stoynoff, both of whom tested during the trial.
After being instructed by the judge on Tuesday morning, a jury made up of six men and three women will decide whether to award damages to Carroll, and if so, how much. The verdict must be unanimous, and Trump cannot face any jail time as a result.