By Jack Queen and Luc Cohen
NEW YORK (Reuters) -Donald Trump must pay $5 million in damages for sexually abusing magazine writer E. Jean Carroll in the 1990s and then defaming her by branding her a liar, a jury decided on Tuesday.
“Today, the world finally knows the truth,” Carroll said in a statement. “This victory is not just for me but for every woman who has suffered because she was not believed.”
The former U.S. president, campaigning to retake the White House in 2024, will appeal, his lawyer Joseph Tacopina told reporters outside the Manhattan federal courthouse.
Carroll, 79, testified during the civil trial that Trump, 76, raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in Manhattan in either 1995 or 1996, then harmed her reputation by writing in an October 2022 post on his Truth Social platform that her claims were a “complete con job,” “a hoax” and “a lie.”
Trump was absent throughout the trial which began on April 25. In a post on his Truth Social platform, Trump called the verdict a “disgrace” and said, “I have absolutely no idea who this woman is.”
Because it was a civil case, Trump faces no criminal consequences and, as such, there was never a threat of prison.
The jury, required to reach a unanimous verdict, deliberated for just under three hours. Its six men and three women awarded Carroll $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages, but Trump will not have to pay so long as the case is on appeal.
In April, Trump gave election regulators only the rough estimates of his wealth that are required in financial disclosures, listing over a dozen properties as worth “over $50 million” each.
‘CORE PRO-TRUMP VOTERS ARE NOT GOING TO CHANGE’
President from 2017 to 2021, Trump is the front-runner in opinion polls for the Republican presidential nomination and has shown an uncanny ability to weather controversies that might sink other politicians.
It seems unlikely in America’s polarized political climate that the civil verdict will have an impact on Trump’s core supporters, who view his legal woes as part of a concerted effort by opponents to undermine him.
“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,” said Charlie Gerow, a Republican strategist in Pennsylvania.
Any negative impact is likely to be small and limited to suburban women and moderate Republicans, Gerow said.
Trump has cited the Carroll trial in campaign fundraising emails as evidence of what he portrays as a Democratic plot. He has said Carroll, a former Elle magazine columnist and a registered Democrat, made up the allegations to try to increase sales of her 2019 memoir and to hurt him politically.
His poll numbers improved after he was charged last month with falsifying business records over a hush money payment to a porn star before his victory in the 2016 presidential election.
The first U.S. president past or present to be criminally charged, Trump has pleaded not guilty and said the charges are politically motivated.
Lis Smith, a Democratic strategist, said it remained to be seen whether the verdict in Carroll’s case would make Trump “unpalatable” to Republican voters beyond his base, prompting them to coalesce around another candidate.
The trial featured testimony from former People magazine reporter Natasha Stoynoff, who told jurors that Trump cornered her at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida in 2005 and forcibly kissed her for a “few minutes.” Another woman, Jessica Leeds, testified that Trump kissed her, groped her and put his hand up her skirt on a flight in 1979.
Jurors also heard excerpts from a 2005 “Access Hollywood” video in which Trump says women let him “grab ’em by the pussy.”
“Historically, that’s true, with stars … if you look over the last million years,” Trump said in an October 2022 video deposition played in court. He has repeatedly denied allegations of sexual misconduct.
TRUMP MISTAKES CARROLL FOR EX-WIFE
Carroll testified that she bumped into Trump at Bergdorf’s and agreed to help him pick out a gift for another woman. The two looked at lingerie before he coaxed her into a dressing room, slammed her head into a wall, pulled down her tights and penetrated her, she testified. Carroll said she could not remember the precise date or year the alleged rape occurred.
Jurors were tasked with deciding whether Trump raped, sexually abused or forcibly touched Carroll, and were separately asked if Trump defamed Carroll. The jurors found Trump sexually abused her but not that he raped her.
Before the jurors began deliberating, Judge Lewis Kaplan defined rape for them as non-consensual “sexual intercourse” through “forcible compulsion.” He described sexual abuse as non-consensual “sexual contact” through forcible compulsion.
Jurors awarded Carroll $2 million in compensatory damages and $20,000 in punitive damages for her battery claim, and $2.7 million in compensatory and $280,000 in punitive damages for her defamation claim.
Trump’s legal team attacked the plausibility of Carroll’s account including why she had never reported the matter to police or screamed during the alleged incident.
Two of Carroll’s friends said that she told them about the alleged rape at the time but swore them to secrecy because she feared that Trump would use his fame and wealth to retaliate if she came forward.
Carroll told jurors she decided to break her silence in 2017 after rape allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein prompted scores of women to come forward with accounts of sexual violence by powerful men. She went public with her account while Trump was president.
She said Trump’s public denials wrecked her career and instigated a campaign of vicious online harassment by his supporters.
While Trump did not testify at the trial, a video clip from the October 2022 deposition showed him mistaking Carroll for one of his former wives in a black-and-white photo among several people at an event.
“It’s Marla,” Trump said in the deposition, referring to his second wife Marla Maples. Previously Trump had said he could not have raped Carroll because she was “not my type.”
(Reporting by Jack Queen and Luc Cohen in New York; Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel, Nathan Layne, Jarrett Renshaw, Jasper Ward, Eric Beech and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Will Dunham, Noeleen Walder and Howard Goller)