Trump faces civil trial for E Jean Carroll rape allegation

E Jean Caroll
Writer E Jean Carroll has also sued Donald Trump for defamation after he accused her of lying when she came forward about the alleged assault. (Image: AP/Craig Ruttle)

Former President Donald Trump is facing a civil trial over an allegation that he raped an advice columnist nearly three decades ago.

Jury selection is due to begin on Tuesday in a New York federal court.

Mr Trump has denied E Jean Carroll’s accusation that he attacked her in a Manhattan department store. He has said she made up the claim for publicity.

Though this is not a criminal case, the consequences for Mr Trump could nevertheless be serious.

If Ms Carroll wins the lawsuit, it would be the first time the former president – who has been the subject of more than two dozen such allegations – would be found legally responsible for a sexual assault.

Mr Trump is facing a wave of other legal troubles, including more than two dozen felony counts over payment of hush money to an adult film actress and an investigation into his alleged role in the US Capitol riot on 6 January 2021.

Mr Trump is also juggling his ongoing bid for the White House next year.

Here’s what to expect at the trial.

What are the accusations?

Ms Carroll, 79, says the attack occurred at a Bergdorf Goodman store in Manhattan in late 1995 or early 1996.

The pair had bumped into each other while shopping, she said. Mr Trump then allegedly asked her for advice when buying lingerie for another woman and jokingly asked her to model it for him. But once in the changing rooms, Ms Carroll said the real estate tycoon lunged at her, pinned her against a wall and assaulted her.

Ms Carroll, whose “Ask E. Jean” advice column has appeared in Elle magazine since 1993, claims she managed to push him off after a “colossal struggle”.

She did not report the alleged encounter to police, her complaint said, because she “was in shock and did not wish to think of herself as a rape victim”.

Two of Ms Carroll’s friends, Carol Martin and Lisa Birnbach, have said the writer told them about the alleged incident within days. Ms Martin and Ms Birchbach are on the list of witnesses that Ms Carroll may call to testify.

What has Trump said?

Donald Trump
(Image: AP)


Mr Trump has issued multiple denials in the years since Ms Carroll came forward with her allegations in 2019.

He has described her claims as a “complete con job” on his social media platform Truth Social, saying the alleged rape “never happened”. And during an October deposition for the case, Mr Trump repeated his denials, adding that his accuser is “not my type”.

It is so far unclear if Mr Trump will make an appearance during the trial, which is expected to last up to two weeks.

He is not required to attend and Ms Carroll’s lawyers have said they do not plan to call him as a witness.

Lawyers for the accuser plan to play to jurors a recording, known as the Access Hollywood tape, in which Mr Trump is heard boasting about grabbing women’s genitals. Lawyers for Ms Carroll also plan to call other women who say they were attacked by Mr Trump to testify at the trial.

Why is it a civil case?

The criminal statute of limitations for this case has long expired.

And typically, the statute of limitations for people to bring civil lawsuits over sexual assault in New York is three years, meaning it too has long lapsed.

But in 2022, New York passed the Adult Survivors Act, which allowed a one-year period for victims to file sexual assault lawsuits in the state over claims that would have otherwise exceeded statute limitations.

Ms Carroll filed her lawsuit against Mr Trump almost immediately after the law took effect.

Before this case, the writer had also sued Mr Trump for defamation after he called her a liar following the publication of her memoir. That lawsuit is currently stalled as courts debate whether there is a legal right to sue ex-presidents.

Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and a Democratic donor, has helped pay Ms Carroll’s legal bills, according to court filings.

Mr Trump’s lawyers tried to delay the trial after they learned of Mr Hoffman’s role, saying it raised questions about Ms Carroll’s motives. The judge dismissed this motion, but allowed lawyers to ask Ms Carroll about the financing.

In a statement, Mr Hoffman defended his support of Ms Carroll, saying he had “never taken any steps to hide the financial support that I have provided to this lawsuit after it started”.

“Our courts are a mechanism of justice for all citizens, not just those with enough money and power to rig the game in their favour,” he said.


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