Tort Law

Trump's post-trial sexual assault denials are relevant in separate defamation suit, lawyer for accuser says

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E. Jean Carroll May 2023

Writer E. Jean Carroll walks out of Manhattan federal court in New York City on May 9. A jury has found former President Donald Trump liable for sexually abusing the advice columnist in the 1990s, awarding her $5 million. Photo by Seth Wenig/The Associated Press.

A lawyer for the woman who accused former President Donald Trump of sexual assault told a federal judge Monday that Trump’s post-trial comments denying the incident are relevant in a separate pending lawsuit against Trump.

Jurors had awarded $5 million in damages to accuser E. Jean Carroll on May 9 after finding that Trump sexually assaulted—but did not rape—Carroll, and that Trump defamed her by denying it.

In a CNN town hall that happened one day after the verdict, Trump said he “has no idea” who Carroll is, and she is a “whack job,” according to the May 22 amended complaint that Carroll filed in the separate case against Trump.

Trump also lashed out on social media after the trial, according to the amended complaint. He repeated that he has “absolutely no idea who this woman is” and said the verdict is “a continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time!” He also said Carroll’s accusations and suit were a “rigged hoax.”

The suit in which jurors ruled for Carroll is known as Carroll II. It was filed under New York’s Adult Survivors Act, which gives adults alleging sexual assault a one-year window to sue over formerly time-barred claims. The libelous statements in that suit were based on a statement that Trump made in October 2022.

The separate pending suit is known as Carroll I. It alleges that Trump defamed Carroll for denying the sexual assault in comments made before October 2022.

Lawyer Roberta Kaplan told a federal judge in a May 22 letter that she wants to add Trump’s comments following the trial to the Carroll I suit because it is relevant to the issue of punitive damages.

Kaplan also said the jury findings in the Carroll II trial have “preclusive effect” in Carroll’s separate Carroll I suit. The “core question” in both suits is whether Trump sexually assaulted Carroll, and the issue was resolved in Carroll II, Kaplan said in her letter. In addition, the defamatory comments that were at issue in the Carroll II trial are “materially identical” to the alleged defamatory comments in the Carroll I suit, Kaplan said.

Both suits stem from Carroll’s claim that Trump sexually assaulted her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in New York City in the mid-1990s.

One remaining issue in the Carroll I suit is whether Trump was acting within the scope of his presidential employment when he denied Carroll’s claims. If so, the United States would be substituted as for Trump as a defendant in the case, and there would be no liability.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan of the Southern District of New York is presiding in both cases.

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