(NEW YORK) — E. Jean Carroll, on the first day of testimony in her civil defamation and battery case against former President Donald Trump, told the jury that she first met Trump in 1987 — but she struggled to pinpoint the year that she alleges he raped her in the dressing room of a Manhattan department store.
Carroll, who brought the lawsuit in November, alleges that Trump defamed her in a 2022 Truth Social post by calling her allegations “a Hoax and a lie” and saying “This woman is not my type!” when he denied her claim that Trump raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room.
She added a charge of battery under a recently adopted New York law that allows adult survivors of sexual abuse to sue their alleged attacker regardless of the statute of limitations.
“When do you believe Donald Trump assaulted you?” her attorney, Mike Ferrara, asked Carroll during her testimony Wednesday.
“This question, the when, the when, the date, has been something I’ve constantly trying to pin down,” Carroll said.
At first she said she thought it was 1994 or 1995, but she said her friend Lisa Birnbach published an article about Trump for New York magazine in February 1996.
“Lisa never would have gone down to Mar-a-Lago … if she knew what Donald Trump had done to me,” Carroll said, leading her to believe the alleged attack occurred in 1996.
In her opening statement, Carroll attorney Shawn Crowley suggested the lack of specificity doesn’t matter.
“While Ms. Carroll doesn’t remember exactly when this happened, she remembers almost every detail of what happened, and her testimony alone will be enough for you to find Donald Trump liable in this case,” Crowley said.
The defense told the jury those details matter.
“She can’t tell you the date that she claims to have been raped. She can’t tell you the month that she claims to have been raped. She can’t tell you the season. She can’t even tell you the year that she claims to have been raped by Donald Trump,” defense attorney Joe Tacopina said during his opening statement.
“I’m here because Donald Trump raped me,” Carroll said at the start of her testimony. “And when I wrote about it, he said it didn’t happen. He lied and shattered my reputation. And I’m here to try and get my life back.”
Trump has denied all allegations that he raped Carroll or defamed her.
Earlier Wednesday, the jury heard from the former general manager at the Bergdorf Goodman women’s store.
Cheryl Beal, who worked for the department store in the mid-1990s, testified regarding the store’s layout, including the sixth floor where lingerie, couture brands and designer sportswear were sold, and where Carroll said Trump raped her in a dressing room while few, if any, people were around.
“It wasn’t one of our busiest floors,” Beal said.
Before the jury entered the courtroom, Carroll’s attorney read aloud parts of two social media posts by Trump that she said violated the judge’s orders.
On Truth Social Wednesday morning, Trump posted that Carroll’s legal team is being “financed by a big political donor that they said didn’t exist, only to get caught lying about that.”
He also posted regarding Carroll, “She said there was a dress, using the ol’ Monica Lewinsky ‘stuff,’ then she didn’t want to produce it.”
Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, said the posts violated the court’s orders against “comments about lawyers and one about DNA.”
“These are out-of-court comments obviously,” said defense attorney Joe Tacopina, but Judge Lewis Kaplan cut him off, saying, “…where for two years he refused to give a DNA sample, and now wants it in the case.”
“What you’re trying to do is to get away from a statement by your client, a public statement, that on the face of it seems entirely inappropriate,” Kaplan told Tacopina.
Tacopina said he would address the posts with Trump.
“I will speak to my client and ask him to refrain from any posts about this case,” Tacopina said.
Kaplan said he hoped the lawyer was successful.
“We’re getting into an area in which your client may or may not be tampering with a new source of potential liability, and I think you know what I mean,” Kaplan said.
It remains unclear if Trump will testify himself at any point. The judge demanded to know this week whether Trump will appear, telling the defense that it was time to “fish or cut bait.”
The trial is expected to last about five days. The nine-member jury of six men and three women is weighing Carroll’s defamation and battery claims and deciding potential monetary damages.
This week’s trial is taking place as Trump seeks the White House for a third time, while facing numerous legal challenges related to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, his handling of classified material after leaving the White House, and possible attempts to interfere in the Georgia’s 2020 vote. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said Monday she would decide whether to file criminal charges against Trump or his allies this summer.
Carroll’s lawsuit is her second against Trump related to her rape allegation.
Carroll previously sued Trump in 2019 after the then-president denied her rape claim by telling The Hill that Carroll was “totally lying,” saying, “I’ll say it with great respect: No. 1, she’s not my type. No. 2, it never happened. It never happened, OK?” That defamation suit has been caught in a procedural back-and-forth over the question of whether Trump, as president, was acting in his official capacity as an employee of the federal government when he made those remarks.
If Trump is determined to have been acting as a government employee, the U.S. government would substitute as the defendant in that suit — which means that case would go away, since the government cannot be sued for defamation.
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