Civil rape case against Donald Trump begins in Manhattan court

E. Jean Carroll’s accusation that Donald Trump raped her was not a “he said, she said” dispute, a lawyer representing the writer said as a civil trial over the former US president’s conduct nearly three decades ago got underway.

Shawn Crowley, who represents the former Elle magazine advice columnist, said during her opening statement on Tuesday that Trump “slammed Ms. Carroll against the wall” and “pressed his lips to hers,” an account that other witnesses were prepared to verify.

“This is not a ‘he said, she said’ case,” Crowley said in federal court in Manhattan.

Joe Tacopina, a lawyer for Trump, countered in his opening statement that the evidence will show that his client did not assault Carroll.

Tacopina also asked jurors to set aside the feelings they may have about Trump, which has long inspired strong opinions from supporters and opponents across the political spectrum.

“You can hate Donald Trump. It’s fine…. But there’s a time and a secret place for that. It’s called a ballot box in an election. It’s not here in a court of law,” Tacopina said. “Nobody’s above the law, but no one is beneath it.”

‘not my type’

Crowley and Tacopina spoke after US District Judge Lewis Kaplan sat nine jurors who will decide whether Trump raped Carroll in a department store dressing room in the mid-1990s, and then defamed her by denying it happened.

In an October 2022 post on his Truth Social platform, Trump, 76, had called Carroll’s rape claim a “hoax” and “complete Scam,” said she made it up to promote her memoir, and declared that Carroll was “not my type! “

During sworn questioning in October, though, he misidentified Carroll in a photograph as his ex-wife Marla Maples.

Carroll, 79, is seeking unspecified damages for what she calls significant pain and suffering, lasting psychological harm and invasion of privacy.

She invoked a new New York state law giving adult sexual abuse victims a one-year window to sue their alleged attackers even if statutes of limitations expired long ago.

The trial is expected to last one to two weeks. Trump’s lawyer will also give an opening statement.

The Current19:07Why E. Jean Carroll waited almost 25 years to accuse Donald Trump of sexual assault

Warning over inciteful statements

Carroll’s case is among a slew of lawsuits and probes facing Trump, the Republican front-runner in the 2024 presidential race. It could be politically damaging as witnesses discuss his alleged sexual misconduct, all of which he denies.

The trial began the same day US President Joe Biden, a Democrat, said he would seek a second four-year White House term.

Trump has long inspired strong feelings from supporters and opponents across the political spectrum.

Before juror questioning began, Kaplan ordered lawyers for Trump and Carroll to tell their clients and witnesses not to make statements that could “incite violence or civil unrest.”

He asked prospective judges whether they agreed with Trump that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, or thought the #MeToo movement — which Carroll has said inspired her to come forward — would undercut their impartiality. None said they did.

Kaplan is also keeping jurors anonymous from the public and the lawyers, to shield them from potential harassment by Trump supporters, and even suggesting that jurors not use their real names when speaking with one another.

“If you’re normally a Bill and you’re selected for the jury or even before, you can be John for a couple of days,” the judge told prospective judges.

Trump is not in court

Trump was not in the courthouse and was not required to attend the trial. He was also unlikely to testify, according to lawyers for both sides.

The former president has repeatedly attacked Carroll and in personal terms, once calling her mentally ill, since she first publicly accused him of rape in June 2019.

Carroll said her encounter with Trump at the Bergdorf Goodman store occurred in late 1995 or early 1996.

Yellow haired man in blue suit
Trump is shown speaking at the National Rifle Association convention in Indianapolis on April 14. The former president denies he raped Carroll, calling her claim a ‘hoax.’ (Michael Conroy/The Associated Press)

She said Trump recognized her, calling her “that advice lady,” and asked for help in buying a gift for another woman.

Carroll said Trump then “maneuvered” her into a dressing room and shut the door, forced her against a wall, pulled down her tights and penetrated her. She said she broke free after two to three minutes.

Her witness list includes two friends in whom she said she confided after the attack: author Lisa Birnbach and former news anchor Carol Martin. It also includes two other women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct, alleging Trump also denies.

Judges are also expected to hear a 2005 AccessHollywood tape on which Trump made graphic, vulgar comments about women.

Trump’s lawyers may try to undermine Carroll’s credibility by noting that she did not call the police, remained publicly silent for more than two decades and cannot remember the date or even the month of the alleged attack.

Other legal issues Trump faces include Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s criminal charges over hush-money payments to a porn star.

Trump pleaded not guilty to those charges on April 4 in a New York court, a three-minute walk from Tuesday’s trial.

The former president also faces:

  • Civil fraud charges by New York Attorney General Letitia James into his namesake company.
  • A criminal probe into interference in Georgia’s 2020 presidential race.
  • A criminal probe into classified government documents recovered at his Mar-a-Lago residence.
  • Inquiries into his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.

In all of these cases, Trump has denied wrongdoing.

Carroll is also suing Trump for defamation after he first denied his rape claim in June 2019, when he was still president. That case remains pending before Kaplan.

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