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Trump's rape trial brought by E. Jean Carroll starts Tuesday in Manhattan. The case centers around accusations from the 1990s

Ashley Collman   

Trump's rape trial brought by E. Jean Carroll starts Tuesday in Manhattan. The case centers around accusations from the 1990s
  • E. Jean Carroll's battery and defamation lawsuit against former President Donald Trump begins Tuesday.
  • Carroll has accused Trump of raping her in a Bergdorf Goodman changing room in the mid-1990s.

Since he was voted out of office in 2020, Donald Trump has faced an ever-growing list of lawsuits and criminal investigations — but he himself has not been to trial.

But that changes Tuesday when a Manhattan jury will be selected to determine whether Trump raped a woman and then damaged her reputation by denying her allegation in statements to the press.

Trump is being taken to court by longtime Elle advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, who first accused Trump of raping her in a Bergdorf Goodman changing room in the mid-1990s in a 2019 essay for New York magazine.

She then sued him for defamation when he loudly denied her claim, saying she wasn't his "type" and that she made up the claim to sell her memoir.

"This 'Ms. Bergdorf Goodman case' is a complete con job," Trump said in an October post on Truth Social. "It is a Hoax and a lie, just like all the other Hoaxes that have been played on me for the past seven years."

US District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan will preside over the trial in Manhattan federal court, which is expected to last five to seven days. Carroll is asking for Trump to retract his statements and for a jury to award her unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

It's still unclear whether Trump will attend the trial in person. His lawyer had complained about the logistical nightmare Trump's attendance would be for the city and the courthouse, and asked that the judge excuse his presence to the jury — but the judge said he would give Trump no such hall pass.

In court filings, Carroll's attorneys said their client plans to be present throughout the trial.

In a somewhat rare move, the judge ordered that the jury in the case will be anonymous, meaning their names will not even be shared with the lawyers, and they will be ferried to the court every day by US Marshals from a secret location.
Kaplan made this decision after expressing concerns that jurors could face "harassment or worse" from Trump and his supporters.

A New York moment turned nightmare

Carroll went public with her rape allegation against Trump in an essay for New York magazine in June 2019, describing running into the then-famous businessman while shopping at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Midtown Manhattan sometime in the mid-1990s (Carroll has been unable to recall which year exactly, but thinks it was in the fall of 1995 or spring of 1996 due to the clothes she remembers both herself and Trump wearing at the time).

Carroll says their encounter started off playful, with Trump asking Carroll to help him pick out a gift for a female friend. But she says things turned aggressive when they ventured into the lingerie section and Trump insisted on Carroll trying on a lacy bodysuit.

As soon as Trump got her into a dressing room, Carroll says he pushed her up against a wall and forcibly kissed her, according to her essay. As she tried to push Trump away, she says he yanked down her tights and penetrated her. Eventually, she says she was able to force Trump off of her and flee the dressing room.

While Carroll didn't report the incident to the police, she says she confided the story to two friends after. Both are on a list of potential witnesses who may testify during the trial.

The case has dragged out years

When Carroll first went public with this story, Trump denied it in a statement claiming he had "never met this person in my life" — despite the fact that Carroll's essay includes a picture of her and Trump socializing at a party in the late 1980s.

Trump continued to downplay Carroll's claims in two interviews, calling it a "totally false accusation" and saying Carroll is "not my type." These three statements formed the basis of Carroll's first defamation lawsuit against Trump, filed in November 2019. But that case has been put on hold while Trump argues that a federal law protects him from being sued for defamation for comments he made while president.

Carroll filed a second lawsuit against Trump last year after New York passed a law temporarily allowing the filing of sexual assault lawsuits in cases where the statute of limitations had previously expired.

That case, which is the one headed to trial, includes complaints for battery, for the alleged rape; and a second act of defamation, for Trump's comments on Truth Social in October.

Trump's lawyers are likely to try and paint Carroll's lawsuit as a political witch hunt. In a court filing earlier this month, Trump's legal team revealed that they recently learned that a non-profit whose "primary backer" is LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, a vocal Trump critic and major Democratic Party donor, had made a donation to Carroll's lawyers. Carroll's lawyers said that they work on a contingency basis for Carroll — meaning they'll be entitled to some of the payout if they win the case — but that they had secured a donation from the Hoffman-backed non-profit to "help pay certain costs and fees."

Trump's lawyers asked to delay the trial a month so that they could probe Hoffman's involvement more, but that request was denied, though Kaplan allowed Trump's legal team to conduct another deposition with Carroll before the trial starts.

With it being more than three years since Carroll filed her initial lawsuit, Kaplan has expressed multiple times his frustration with Trump's team trying to delay her day in court. In fact, the week that they tried to delay over the Hoffman issue, Trump's lawyers made a second request to push the trial a month — this time to let the "media frenzy" over the former president's recent indictment for alleged hush money payments to women to die down.

But Kaplan denied that request, expressing concerns that this was just a "delay tactic" that could rob the elderly Carroll of her ability to seek justice.

"She is now over 79 years of age and is entitled to her day in court just as both parties are entitled to a fair trial," Kaplan wrote.

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