Donald Trump allegedly raped advice columnist E Jean Carroll during a chance meeting at a high-end New York department store and then “destroyed” her career when he repeatedly lied about the claims, a civil jury in New York heard Tuesday.
Carroll, 79, is suing Trump, 76, for assault and defamation in a civil lawsuit in US Federal Court in Lower Manhattan, the latest in a whirlwind of litigation surrounding the former president as he prepares to run for the White House in 2024.
Ms. Carroll was leaving Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue sometime in the spring of 1996 when she encountered Mr. Trump at a revolving door entrance, Ms. Carroll’s attorney, Shawn Crowley, told the jury in opening arguments.
She recognized Trump as “that real estate guy,” and he knew her as “that advice columnist,” Crowley said.
He told her he wanted to find a gift for a female acquaintance and she agreed to help thinking it would be a fun story to tell her friends, the jury of six men and three women said.
The couple took an escalator to the sixth floor and joked about who should try on a pair of lingerie, the court heard. The lingerie section was deserted and they continued to exchange pleasantries as Trump led her by the arm into a dressing room.
“Then when they came in, everything changed,” Crowley said. “Suddenly, nothing was funny.”
Trump, who was “twice his size,” pushed Carroll against a wall and raped her, the court was told.
“She pushed him, she kicked him, she hit him with her bag” as he tried to free himself, Crowley said. The encounter lasted about three minutes, before the writer managed to escape.
The allegations closely matched Trump’s “MO” of targeting random women, he added.
Leaving the store, Ms Carroll immediately called her friend, journalist Lisa Birnbach, who advised her to go to the police, the court was told.
She confided in another friend, former WCBS television host Carol Martin, who advised her to remain silent given Trump’s power and influence in New York at the time. Both friends will be called to testify during the trial.
“This is not a ‘he said, she said,’” Crowley said.
Ms Carroll had grown up in a post-World War II “smile and bear it” generation, and she chose to remain silent, the jury was told.
The alleged sexual assault remained out of public view until elle columnist published an excerpt from his book What do we need men for? a modest proposal in NY magazine in 2019.
Ms Crowley told the court that then-President Trump used the world’s most powerful podium to claim he had never met Ms Carroll and call her a liar.
“He went on the attack, seeking to destroy and humiliate her,” she said.
His statement that Ms Carroll was “not my type” actually meant that “she was too ugly to assault”, Ms Crowley said.
“The most powerful person in the world called her a liar and a fake.”
Ms Carroll was inundated with thousands of “hate messages” and posts on social media, causing her career to plummet and sustain severe psychological damage.
Months later, he decided to sue for defamation.
Then, after New York passed the Adult Survivors Act in 2022, which gave sexual assault survivors the chance to sue their alleged abusers, he filed a second lawsuit accusing Trump of assault and defamation.
Crowley told jurors that two other women, Natasha Stoynoff and Jessica Leeds, would testify about similar alleged sexual assault encounters with Trump.
The jury will play the infamous Access Hollywood tapes, released weeks before the 2016 presidential election, in which Trump bragged about being able to grab women by their private parts.
“This was not locker room talk,” Crowley said, mimicking Trump’s explanation at the time. “It’s actually what he did to Mrs. Carroll and other women.”
Ms. Crowley also showed the jury a photo of Ms. Carroll with Mr. Trump and their respective spouses at the time, John Johnson and Ivana Trump, taken some six years before the alleged meeting with Bergdorf Goodman.
He said that in his statement, Trump had confused Carroll with his second wife, Marla Maples.
“Donald Trump singled out Ms. Carroll and mistook her for his wife, who admitted she was his type.”
In his opening statement, Trump’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, told jurors that Carroll was motivated by hatred of the former president and was seeking to boost sales of his book.
He said the allegations were deliberately vague and had changed since his 2019 article in NY magazine.
Tacopina urged the jury to put aside any feelings they might have about the former president and weigh the case based on the evidence.
“Who would make up a story like this and who would believe it?” he said. “They are politically inclined people, financially motivated people and people who want to be in the spotlight.”
Carroll, who sat at the front of the court, looked directly at Tacopina for much of his 45-minute deposition before the jury.
“It all comes down to whether they believe the unbelievable,” Tacopina told the nine jurors.
Ms. Carroll is seeking monetary damages from the former president, who will not appear in person.
The case is expected to take five to 10 days.