Trump ordered to pay US$5 million for defamation and sexual abuse in landmark trial

Photo Courtesy of Bangkok Post

A US jury ruled yesterday that former president Donald Trump was liable for sexually abusing and defaming an ex-magazine columnist, ordering him to pay her US$5 million in damages. The nine jurors dismissed E. Jean Carroll’s accusations of rape but upheld her other claims in the high-profile civil trial, which concluded after less than three hours of deliberations.

The lawsuit marks the first occasion that Trump has confronted legal repercussions concerning allegations of sexual misconduct that date back decades and involve twelve women. Carroll, 79 years old, filed a suit against Trump last year, claiming that he had raped her in the changing rooms of the Bergdorf Goodman luxury store on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue in 1996. The former Elle magazine columnist also accused Trump of defamation when he referred to her as “a complete con job” after she brought the claims to light in 2019.

The 76 year old Trump, who is considered a frontrunner for the Republican nomination in the upcoming presidential election, has labelled the case as a “hoax” and “a lie.” Carroll told the civil trial, which lasted two weeks, that the alleged attack had caused her to feel “ashamed” and incapable of engaging in romantic relationships. She stated that she had withheld the accusation for over 20 years due to fear of Trump.

Carroll’s legal team summoned two additional women to testify, who also alleged sexual assault by Trump in the past. Jessica Leeds, a former businesswoman, told the Manhattan federal court that Trump had groped her in the business class section of a US flight during the 1970s. Journalist Natasha Stoynoff asserted that Trump had kissed her without consent during a 2005 interview at his Mar-a-Lago estate.

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Approximately a dozen women accused Trump of sexual misconduct ahead of the 2016 election, resulting in his presidential victory. Trump has denied all allegations and has evaded prosecution for any of them. No criminal charges can emerge from Carroll’s lawsuit.

Trump did not testify during the legal proceedings, and his defence team did not call upon any witnesses. The jury viewed a video of Trump’s sworn deposition from October, in which he labelled Carroll “a liar” and a “really sick person.” His lawyers claimed that Carroll fabricated the allegations “for money, for political reasons, and for status.”

Carroll initiated her lawsuit under a New York law allowing sexual assault victims a one-year window to sue alleged abusers, regardless of when the incidents may have taken place. The jury’s responsibility was to determine whether Carroll’s lawyers demonstrated her case using a preponderance of the evidence, a lesser burden than the proof beyond a reasonable doubt needed in criminal trials.

The lawsuit is one of several ongoing legal challenges that put Trump’s potential bid for the presidency at risk. In the previous month, he pleaded not guilty in a criminal case regarding a hush-money payment to a porn star prior to the 2016 election. Furthermore, Trump is under investigation for his attempts to reverse his 2020 election defeat in Georgia, alleged mismanagement of classified documents removed from the White House, and his role in the US Capitol riot by his supporters on January 6, 2021.

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With a Bachelor's Degree in English, Jenn has plenty of experience writing and editing on different topics. After spending many years teaching English in Thailand, Jenn has come to love writing about Thai culture and the experience of being an ex-pat in Thailand. During long holidays, she travels to North of Thailand just to have Khao Soi!

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