Trial begins in E Jean Carroll’s rape suit against Donald Trump
A rape allegation against Donald Trump is not a case of “he said, she said”, a lawyer for former columnist E Jean Carroll said as the civil trial over the case got underway in New York.
Ms Carroll, 79, has sued Mr Trump for allegedly assaulting her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s, a charge the former president has denied.
Lawyer Shawn Crowley said Ms Carroll confided in friends about the assault.
In return, Mr Trump’s lawyer dismissed the accusation as implausible.
“It all comes down to: Do you believe the unbelievable?” lawyer Joe Tacopina said to the the six-man, three-woman panel in opening remarks on Tuesday.
The civil trial, expected to last two weeks, will centre on an alleged encounter between the former advice columnist for Elle magazine and Mr Trump more than two decades ago at the Bergdorf Goodman store.
According to Ms Carroll’s account, she went with Mr Trump, 76, to the store’s lingerie department where he maneuvered her into a dressing room and raped her.
The event “would change her life forever, Mr Crowley said, adding that “fear and shame” kept Ms Carroll silent about the incident for years.
Ms Carroll will testify at trial, her lawyer said, as well as witnesses who would verify her account, including two employees of Bergdorf Goodman, her sister and two women who also claim to have been assaulted by Mr Trump.
It remains unclear whether the former president will testify in person. Ms Carroll’s lawyers have said they do not plan to call him as a witness.
On Tuesday, the judge ordered Mr Trump’s team to provide clarity on whether he will attend parts of the trial by the end of the week. The judge said that court security and staff need to have time to prepare in case he does show up.
Lawyers for Mr Trump have focused on the circumstances surrounding the alleged attack, asking jurors how such a crime could have occurred unnoticed in a typically bustling New York City store.
Ms Carroll’s account, Mr Tacopina said, is “unbelievable”.
The trial comes amid a barrage of other legal troubles for the former president, who has announced his third bid for the White House.
Though these are civil proceedings and not a criminal trial, the stakes are still high for Mr Trump. If Ms Carroll is successful, it would be the first time he is held legally responsible for sexual assault, after more than two dozen such allegations have been made against him.
Mr Trump has said Ms Carroll made up the claim for publicity.
Ms Carroll is seeking unspecified damages for what she described as significant pain and suffering, lasting psychological harm, and invasion of privacy.
In 2022, New York passed the Adult Survivors Act, which allowed a one-year period for victims to file sexual assault lawsuits in the state over claims that would have otherwise exceeded statute limitations.