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Why Trump is facing a 2nd civil defamation case filed by E. Jean Carroll

Writer E. Jean Carroll is seeking $10 million US in compensatory damages and millions more in punitive damages in a defamation claim against former U.S. president Donald Trump. Here's what you need to know about the case.

Jury will consider damages for statements Trump made regarding writer while president

A woman in a coat holds up an umbrella in an outdoor photograph.

Donald Trump's dual reality of campaign victories and courtroom battles in 2024 has officially begun, given his win on Monday in the Iowa caucus.

Jury selection begins Tuesday in a federal court in Manhattan, where the presumed front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination for this year's U.S. presidential election will find out what, if anything, he owes writer E. Jean Carroll for claiming she lied about a sexual assault accusation.

Carroll, 80, has accused Trump of raping her at a high-end Manhattan department store dressing room. She has been uncertain of the precise date, saying it occurred in 1995 or 1996.

She is seeking $10 million US in compensatory damages and millions more in punitive damages.

Wasn't there a Carroll-Trump trial already?

Yes, in May 2023, also in Manhattan.

That case arose when Carroll was among several people who took advantage of New York's Adult Survivors Act in 2022, which for one year provided what was called a "lookback window" for alleged victims of historic sex abuse to file civil suits to hold their perpetrators accountable.

WATCH l Jury finds Trump liable in May 2023 defamation trial:

Trump liable for sexual abuse and defamation, but not rape, jury finds

8 months ago

Duration 2:55

A Manhattan jury found Donald Trump sexually abused and defamed writer E. Jean Carroll and owes her millions in damages. The civil trial also alleged that Trump raped Carroll, which the jury rejected.

She sued after Trump posted on his Truth Social platform in October 2022 that her accusation that he raped her was a "hoax and a lie" to promote a memoir.

A jury of six men and three women deliberated for three hours, rejecting Trump's denial that he assaulted Carroll and awarding her $5 million US in compensatory and punitive damages. Although the finding of sexual abuse was enough to establish his liability for battery, the jury did not find that Trump raped her.

Did Trump testify in that case?

Trump was not legally obligated to even appear at the trial — and he didn't. His defence team rested without calling any witnesses.

The jury did hear from Trump, from a videotaped October 2022 deposition.

Trump vehemently denied raping Carroll or ever really knowing her in the deposition, calling her a "nut job." He repeated his claims from a 2005 Access Hollywood recording — which threatened to derail his 2016 presidential bid — in which he bragged that men who are celebrities can grab women by the genitals without asking.

"Historically that's true with stars," he said. "If you look over the last million years, I guess that's been largely true," he said. "Not always, but largely true. Unfortunately or fortunately."

What's this trial about, then?

What is being determined now stems from statements that predate the Truth Social post by three years.

Carroll in mid-2019 detailed the alleged Trump encounter in a piece in New York Magazine. The article presaged by a few weeks her book, What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal.

LISTEN | Why E. Jean Carroll waited so long to make her allegation:

The Current19:07Why E. Jean Carroll waited almost 25 years to accuse Donald Trump of sexual assault

Last month, advice columnist E. Jean Carroll accused U.S. President Donald Trump of sexually assaulting her in the mid 1990s. While he denies the allegation, she tells us why she waited so long to make it.

She told CBC Radio that same year that she was prompted to do so after the revelations of the #MeToo movement, and the realization that she had been answering letters about abuse in her Elle column for years.

"I felt [readers] were owed the truth about the person they're writing to," she said.

Subsequently, then-president Trump told reporters Carroll was "totally lying" to boost book sales.

"I'll say it with great respect: No. 1, she's not my type. No. 2, it never happened," he told The Hill newspaper in Washington.

As a result, Carroll sued Trump for defamation in November 2019.

Why has this taken so long?

The Justice Department during the Trump administration maintained he couldn't be sued for comments made in the scope of his job as president, under the federal Westfall Act.

Several legal pundits questioned whether such comments could reasonably be considered part of his presidential duties, and as the case worked its way through the courts to resolve that question, the Justice Department under his successor, President Joe Biden, maintained that same stance for more than two years, in effect defending Trump.

LISTEN | Iowa voter says charges against Trump won't affect his support:

The Current23:19Trump supporter on why criminal charges haven’t swayed his vote

Donald Trump dominated the Iowa caucuses Monday night, cementing his Republican nominee front-runner status — despite ongoing court cases and the prospect of prison time. One voter in Iowa says those charges are “trumped up” and won’t sway his support.

In July 2023, the Justice Department changed its tune, writing that "there is no longer a sufficient basis" to conclude Trump was serving the U.S. government in his statements, citing both the May 2023 jury verdict and Trump's deposition in that case.

What might happen in this trial?

Judge Lewis A. Kaplan ruled last year that the new jury didn't need to decide anew whether Carroll was sexually abused or whether Trump's remarks about her were defamatory since that was resolved in the first trial.

The jury will only be determining the dollar amount Trump owes from the comments he made while president.

Carroll plans to testify a second time about the department store encounter, and the Access Hollywood tape has been deemed admissible.

Several people carry signs at a demonstration outside. The signs read 'Justice Matters,' 'Lies have Consequences,' and 'Morally Bankrupt.'

Trump has indicated an interest in testifying. The judge has warned that if that occurs, he can't say things on the stand that he has said on the campaign trail or elsewhere, like claiming Carroll lied about him to promote her memoir.

He also can't raise any topics related to Carroll's "past romantic relationships, sexual disposition and prior sexual experiences."

What does Trump's court calendar look like in 2024?

There are dates pencilled in, but not exactly set in stone.

Currently, a civil trial is winding down on fraud and other charges that could determine the future of Trump Organization in New York state.

Trump faces a March 4 date in federal court on a four-count criminal indictment alleging he conspired to defraud the U.S. by preventing Congress from certifying Biden's 2020 election victory.

That date could be affected as the courts consider whether Trump is immune from criminal prosecution for acts while he was president. A federal appeals court heard arguments on that topic last week, and it could make its way to the Supreme Court for a final opinion.

Trump's potential presidential immunity does not come into play for a scheduled May 20 trial on allegations he unlawfully retained government documents after leaving the presidency in early 2021. But the pace of pre-trial rulings has called into question whether that start date will be kept.

On March 25, he faces a New York trial date on charges he falsified business records to cover up hush-money payments over alleged extramarital affairs he didn't want to become public knowledge during the 2016 presidential campaign. But this week, his lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, withdrew from that case, potentially throwing that date in question.

Trump also faces a 13-count indictment that details alleged acts he undertook to reverse his 2020 election defeat in Georgia. A date has yet to be set for that criminal trial.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chris Iorfida

Senior Writer

Chris Iorfida, based in Toronto, has been with CBC since 2002 and written on subjects as diverse as politics, business, health, sports, arts and entertainment, science and technology.

    With files from The Associated Press

    *****
    Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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