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Donald Trump found liable for sexual abuse, defamation

Published May 9, 2023last updated May 10, 2023

A US jury ordered the former president to pay $5 million to writer E. Jean Carroll after finding him liable for sexual abuse and defamation. But the jury rejected sexual assault allegations.

Donald Trump
Trump maintained he did not assault Carroll or even know herImage: Evan Vucci/AP Photo/picture alliance

A New York jury on Tuesday found former US President Donald Trump liable for sexual abuse and defamation against advice columnist E. Jean Carroll. He was ordered to pay $5 million (€4.56 million) in compensation and fines in the civil lawsuit.

However, the jury rejected Carroll's claim that Trump sexually assaulted her in 1996.

During the two-week-long trial, Carroll testified that Trump had sexually assaulted her in a fitting room at a luxury Manhattan store. She said he then harmed her reputation by writing in a post on his platform Truth Social in 2022 that her allegations were a "complete con job," "a hoax" and "a lie."

"Today, the world finally knows the truth," Carroll said in a statement after the ruling.

"This victory is not just for me but for every woman who has suffered because she was not believed."

There was never any prospect of Trump facing prison or similar consequences because the case was a civil one rather than a criminal one.

How did Trump respond?

Trump maintained he did not assault Carroll or even know her. He did not attend the trial.

The former president, who is seeking a run for the White House in 2024, said the verdict was a "disgrace," and again claimed it was part of a political "witch hunt" against him.

"I have absolutely no idea who this woman is," he said in a post on Truth Social, the social network that he owns.

What were the accusations against Trump?

The 79-year-old Carroll said  Trump allegedly raped her at the Bergdorf Goodman department store almost 30 years ago.

She was working as a writer for Elle magazine at the time and said that Trump asked her for help choosing a gift for a woman. They allegedly ended up in a dressing room after looking around the store and making small talk. Here Carroll said that Trump pushed her against the wall and raped her.

Carroll said that she was then able to flee after a few minutes.

She added that it took her more than 20 years to go public with the allegations because she was "frightened" by Trump.

"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, and I'm here to try and get my life back," Carroll said in her testimony at the trial.

Trump leading Republican opinion polls

Trump has mentioned the Carroll trial in campaign fundraising emails as supposed evidence of a Democrat plot to damage him politically.

Analysts believe the ruling on Tuesday is unlikely to significantly harm his presidential bid among Republican voters.

Is the US legal system being 'weaponized' against Trump?

"The folks that are anti-Trump are going to remain that way, the core pro-Trump voters are not going to change, and the ambivalent ones I just don’t think are going to be moved by this type of thing," Charlie Gerow, a Republican strategist in Pennsylvania, told the Reuters news agency.

Trump is the front-runner in opinion polls for the Republican presidential nomination and has been able to weather multiple controversies and legal battles in the past.

He has several other legal hurdles ahead of him, including recent criminal charges relating to hush money that he allegedly paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

zc, ab, fb/jcg (AP, Reuters)