NATIONAL NEWS

What’s behind sexual assault lawsuit against Donald Trump?

Apr 24, 2023, 8:16 AM

FILE - In this March 4, 2020, file photo, E. Jean Carroll arrives at court in New York. More than a...

FILE - In this March 4, 2020, file photo, E. Jean Carroll arrives at court in New York. More than a dozen women have publicly accused former President Donald Trump of sexual assault and harassment, but none of those claims has gone to trial. That is about to change. The trial of a former advice columnist's rape lawsuit is due to start with jury selection Tuesday. E. Jean Carroll alleges that Trump raped her in a New York luxury department store dressing room in the mid-1990s. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — As Donald Trump ran for and served as president, over a dozen women publicly accused him of sexual assault and harassment. Most of those claims — all denied by Trump — were never taken to court. None has gone to trial. But that is about to change.

Jury selection starts Tuesday in E. Jean Carroll’s rape lawsuit in a New York federal court. The former Elle magazine advice columnist alleges that Trump raped her in a luxury department store dressing room in the mid-1990s.

Carroll’s civil case has taken a winding road to indictment on charges of doctoring his business’ records to conceal hush-money payments to a porn star.

Here’s a look at the case and some key questions:

WHAT’S THE CASE ABOUT?

Carroll says a chance meeting with Trump at Bergdorf Goodman suddenly turned into sexual violence in 1995 or 1996. According to her court complaint, Trump ushered her to a fitting room after they joked about trying on a bodysuit, and then he pinned her against the wall and forced himself on her as she tried to break free.

She said she ultimately kneed him away and ran out of the store. Two of Carroll’s friends have said she told them about the alleged attack soon afterward. She never informed police or anyone else until she recounted the story in a 2019 memoir and magazine excerpt. (The Associated Press typically does not name people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Carroll did.)

WHAT DOES TRUMP SAY HAPPENED?

Nothing whatsoever. “She said that I did something to her that never took place. There was no anything,” misidentified Carroll as his ex-wife Marla Maples. His prior ex, the late Ivana Trump, is in the photo.

ARE THERE EYEWITNESSES? ANY VIDEO? FORENSIC EVIDENCE?

Carroll’s legal team says there were no eyewitnesses to the alleged attack, and any security video that might have existed is long gone. For years, Carroll said it was too late. Jurors won’t hear about the DNA and the dress at all.

WILL TRUMP BE AT THE TRIAL?

His presence isn’t required and doesn’t appear likely. Trump’s lawyers have said that he wants to attend but that the security needed for such an appearance would burden the city and court. The judge, for his part, has expressed confidence that Trump can be protected in the lower Manhattan courthouse, where security already is tight.

Even if Trump isn’t there, jurors will hear from him via video of his questioning last fall. Carroll, meanwhile, plans to attend every day and to testify, according to her attorneys.

IS THERE A POSSIBILITY OF CRIMINAL PROSECUTION?

No. The legal time limit for pressing criminal charges ran out long ago.

THEN WHY IS THIS CIVIL CASE IN COURT NOW?

It’s complicated. When Carroll first came forward, the time limit for suing over a rape had expired. But after Trump reacted to her allegations by saying she was “ asserting that Trump’s remarks were part of his job as president — an argument that could have sunk the defamation claim.

The courts are now weighing that question. But in the meantime, New York gave people a chance to sue over long-ago sexual abuse claims. Carroll was among the first to do so. (Her case remained in federal court, however.) And Trump has continued to publicly portray Carroll as a liar, which has become the basis of a new defamation claim that will also be addressed at the trial.

WHAT DOES CARROLL WANT?

A retraction and unspecified damages.

WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER WOMEN WHO ACCUSED TRUMP OF SEXUAL MISCONDUCT?

Two of them are due to testify in Carroll’s case. Jurors also are expected to hear the infamous 2005 dropped.

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What’s behind sexual assault lawsuit against Donald Trump?