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Jury finds Donald Trump sexually abused E. Jean Carroll in civil case

 (CNN) — A Manhattan federal jury found that Donald Trump sexually abused E. Jean Carroll in a luxury department store dressing room in the spring of 1996 and awarded her $5 million for battery and defamation.

Carroll alleged Trump raped her in the Bergdorf Goodman department store and then defamed her when he denied her claim, said she wasn’t his type and suggested she made up the story to boost sales of her book. Trump denied all wrongdoing. He does not face any jail time as a result of the civil verdict.

While the jury found that Trump sexually abused her, sufficient to hold him liable for battery, the jury did not find that Carroll proved he raped her.

Carroll filed the lawsuit last November under the “New York State Adult Survivors Act,” a state bill which opened a look-back window for sexual assault allegations like Carroll’s with long-expired statutes of limitation.

Trump did not attend the trial. Like any defendant in a civil case, he was not required to appear in court for trial or any proceedings and has a right not to testify in his own defense.

Carroll called the verdict a victory for her and other victims of abuse.

“I filed this lawsuit against Donald Trump to clear my name and to get my life back,” she said in a statement. “Today, the world finally knows the truth. This victory is not just for me but for every woman who has suffered because she was not believed.”

Carroll’s lead attorney, Roberta Kaplan also released a statement saying, “No one is above the law, not even a former President of the United States.”

Trump, meanwhile, on his social media site Truth Social, called the jury’s verdict a “total disgrace” and said it was “continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time.” He repeated his claim he did not know who Carroll was.

Trump attorney Joe Tacopina outside the court Tuesday said that he had spoken to the former president and they will appeal the verdict, which he called “strange.”

“This was a rape claim. This was rape case all along and the jury rejected that, but made other findings,” he said. “But they rejected her rape claim and she’d always claimed this was a rape case so it’s a little perplexing, but we move forward.”

Tacopina said Trump is “ready to proceed and go forward.”

“He’s firm in his belief, as many people are, that he cannot get a fair trial in New York City based on the jury pool,” Tacopina said.

The verdict comes as the 2024 Republican presidential primary field takes shape, with Trump as the early frontrunner.

His potential rivals, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have so far criticized Trump on electability grounds but have stayed away from the former president’s legal troubles — including Carroll’s allegations and the Manhattan probe into a hush money scheme.

That reluctance to attack Trump over allegations stems from his ability to survive scandals that would have doomed most politicians — including the 2016 release of the “Access Hollywood” tape, in which he bragged that stars can “do anything” to women. Tacopina asserted after the verdict that the tape shouldn’t have been allowed as evidence, saying “We’re very confident on the appellate issues here.”

But as his legal troubles mount, with probes in New York, Washington, DC, and Georgia still underway and primary debates set to begin in August, Trump’s goodwill with GOP voters will again be tested in the coming months.

Jurors urged not to identify themselves

Judge Lewis Kaplan (no relation to attorney Roberta Kaplan) dismissed the jury after the verdict and informed them they are now allowed to identify themselves publicly if they choose. However, the judge suggested they remain silent.

“My advice to you is not to identify yourselves. Not now and not for a long time,”Lewis Kaplan said. “If you’re one who elects to speak to others and to identify yourselves to others, I direct you not to identify anyone else who sat on this jury. Each of you owes that to the other whatever you decided for yourself.”

As the verdict was read, Carroll held onto the hand of her attorney Shawn Crowley. She looked relieved and appeared to rock forward. They exchanged smiles with each other as the clerk read through each of the counts going in her favor.

After the judge dismissed the jury, Trump attorney Tacopina walked over to Carroll and shook her hand. He also shook the hands of her attorneys.

Carroll and her lead attorney Roberta Kaplan embraced each other’s shoulders. They exited together.

Carroll testimony

On the stand last week, Carroll testifying in chilling detail about what happened in 1996.

“I’m here because Donald Trump raped me, and when I wrote about it, he said it didn’t happen,” Carroll testified. “He lied and shattered my reputation, and I’m here to try to get my life back.”

Carroll acknowledged she is a registered Democrat and thinks Trump is “evil” and “vile” and was a terrible president, but testified that her political views have nothing to do with her pursuit of this lawsuit.

“I’m not settling a political score,” Carroll said. “I’m settling a personal score because he called me a liar repeatedly and it really has decimated my reputation. I’m a journalist — the one thing I have to have is the trust of the readers.”

Carroll’s attorney Michael Ferrara asked why she didn’t go public with her allegations when Trump first ran for president.

“I noticed that the more women who came forward to accuse him, the better he did in the polls,” she said.

Tacopina, in cross examination, repeatedly asked questions about why Carroll did not scream during the approximately 3-minute alleged attack

“I’m not a screamer,” Carroll responded. “I was too much in panic to scream.”

“You can’t beat up on me for not screaming,” she told the defense lawyer. “Women who don’t come forward, one of the reasons they don’t come forward is they are asked why they didn’t scream. Some women scream, some women don’t. It keeps women silent.”

In his closing argument Monday, Tacopina said he knows Trump is a divisive figure, but that shouldn’t matter to jurors when reaching a verdict.

“People have very strong feelings about Donald Trump. That’s obvious,” Tacopina said. “There’s a time and a secret place to do that: it’s called a ballot box during an election.”

“What they want is for you to hate him enough to ignore the facts,” Tacopina added. “All objective evidence cuts against her.”

Jury did not find that Carroll proved rape

While the jury did not find that Carroll had proven rape, it did find that she proved Trump committed sexual abuse.

The jury had been instructed that a person is liable for sexual abuse when they another person to sexual contact without consent.

Under New York law, “sexual contact” means “any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person for the purpose of gratifying the sexual desire of either party.”

The state’s law says that a person is liable for rape when a person forces sexual intercourse with another person without their consent. For the purposes of this law, “sexual intercourse” means “any penetration, however slight, of the penis into the vaginal opening.”

Both sexual abuse and rape are sexual offenses in New York.

The verdict not have any legal effect on Trump’s presidential candidacy. For one, it is a civil case, and during the 2016 campaign Trump also faced all sorts of civil action — like the fraud cases concerning Trump University that were settled shortly after he was elected — that had no bearing on the requirements for the presidency that are laid out in the Constitution.

Trump also faces unrelated criminal exposure, most prominently in the case that Manhattan prosecutors have brought against him for hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels, who claimed they two had an extramarital affair (Trump denies the claim).

At the same time, a successful criminal prosecution of the former president is unlikely to affect — at least from a legal standpoint — his ability to be reelected to the White House.

Notably, there is precedent for convicted felons to run for federal office — including for the office of the presidency. Eugene V. Debs, a perennial socialist candidate for the White House in the early 20th century, was incarcerated on an espionage conviction when he won more than 900,000 votes in a 1920 presidential campaign.