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Judge upholds the $5 million jury verdict against Trump in a writer’s sex abuse and defamation case

by Sophia Chen
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Trump sexual abuse defamation case verdict

The rejection of Donald Trump’s appeal against a $5 million jury verdict in a sexual abuse and defamation case was upheld by a federal judge on Wednesday. Despite his claims that the verdict was excessive, and his assertions that the jury’s lack of a rape verdict cleared his name, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan found the awarded damages in favor of E. Jean Carroll, the writer who brought the case, to be reasonable.

Trump’s attorneys had requested Kaplan either lessen the jury’s award to under $1 million or necessitate a retrial on the subject of damages. They argued that the $2 million in compensatory damages assigned for Carroll’s sexual assault claim was overstated because the jury did not find Trump guilty of raping Carroll at a Bergdorf Goodman store in Manhattan in 1996.

Kaplan noted that the unanimous jury verdict leaned heavily towards Carroll. The only exception was the failure to confirm Trump had raped her, based on the specific terminology of a section of the New York Penal Law.

This section, Kaplan explained, defines rape narrowly as vaginal penetration by a penis under force and without consent, while penetration of the vagina or other body orifices by fingers or other items without consent is classified as “sexual abuse.”

Kaplan clarified that the verdict does not imply Carroll was unsuccessful in proving that Trump ‘raped’ her, as per the common understanding of the term. The jury found that Trump did indeed engage in such behavior.

Kaplan agreed with Trump’s lawyers that the $2 million awarded for sexual abuse would have been excessive if the jury had based it on Trump touching Carroll’s breasts through her clothing or similar behavior. However, he pointed out that the jury had not reached such a conclusion.

Kaplan stated that there was no evidence of such behavior. Instead, the jury found that Trump had intentionally and forcefully penetrated Carroll’s vagina with his fingers, causing immediate pain and lasting emotional and psychological harm.

In dismissing Trump’s appeal, Kaplan suggested that it overlooks the main body of evidence presented at trial, misinterprets the jury’s decision, and mistakenly concentrates on the New York Penal Law’s definition of ‘rape,’ excluding its common usage and the evidence of what actually happened between Carroll and Trump.

Trump’s lawyers, who are currently appealing the trial, added the judge’s decision to their appeal but declined to comment immediately. Trump, who is leading the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has insisted since the May verdict that he never met Carroll at the department store and that he didn’t know her before she claimed in her 2019 memoir that he had raped her.

Carroll testified at the trial for three days, alleging that Trump sexually assaulted her in a deserted area of the midtown Manhattan store’s dressing room near the lingerie section after a spontaneous encounter at the store entrance led to a mutual shopping trip for a gift for one of Trump’s friends.

Following the trial, Carroll added new claims to an ongoing defamation case and is seeking an additional $10 million in compensatory damages and significantly more in punitive damages. Trump has counterclaimed, asserting that his reputation was tarnished when Carroll continued to allege that she had been raped following the verdict.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Trump sexual abuse defamation case verdict

What was the jury’s verdict in the case brought by E. Jean Carroll against Donald Trump?

The jury awarded E. Jean Carroll $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages for sexual abuse and defamation in a civil case against Donald Trump.

Did the jury conclude that Donald Trump raped E. Jean Carroll?

The jury concluded that Carroll did not manage to prove Trump raped her according to the specific terminology of a section of the New York Penal Law. However, they did find that Trump had forcefully and intentionally penetrated Carroll’s vagina with his fingers, causing immediate pain and enduring emotional and psychological harm.

What was Donald Trump’s response to the verdict?

Donald Trump’s lawyers argued that the award was excessive and requested for it to be reduced to under $1 million or for a new trial on damages. However, their appeal was rejected by Judge Lewis A. Kaplan.

What was Judge Lewis A. Kaplan’s response to the appeal?

Judge Lewis A. Kaplan upheld the jury’s verdict, stating it was reasonable. He dismissed Trump’s appeal, suggesting it overlooks the main body of evidence presented at trial, misinterprets the jury’s decision, and mistakenly concentrates on the New York Penal Law’s definition of ‘rape,’ excluding its common usage and the evidence of what actually happened between Carroll and Trump.

Are there any pending legal proceedings related to this case?

Yes, Carroll looks forward to a second defamation trial against Trump scheduled for January. This claim is based on statements Trump made while he was president and on statements he made after the trial. Following the trial, Carroll also added new claims to an ongoing defamation case and is seeking an additional $10 million in compensatory damages and significantly more in punitive damages. Trump has also counterclaimed, asserting that his reputation was tarnished when Carroll continued to allege that she had been raped following the verdict.

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