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US jury finds Trump sexually abused writer

Donald Trump sexually abused magazine writer E Jean Carroll in the 1990s and then defamed her by branding her a liar, jurors have decided while awarding her $US5 million ($A7.4 million) in damages.

Photo: AP/Alex Brandon

Photo: AP/Alex Brandon

The former US president, campaigning to retake the White House in 2024, will appeal, his spokesman Steven Cheung said.

Trump will not have to pay so long as the case is on appeal.

Carroll, 79, testified during the civil trial that Trump, 76, raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in Manhattan in either 1995 or 1996, then harmed her reputation by writing in an October 2022 post on his Truth Social platform that her claims were a “complete con job,” “a hoax” and “a lie”.

Carroll held hands with her lawyers as the verdict was read.

She left the courthouse with her lawyer Roberta Kaplan, smiling and wearing sunglasses, and entered a car without speaking to reporters.

The nine-member jury in Manhattan federal court awarded $US5 million 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.

The jury deliberated for just under three hours before rejecting Trump’s denial that he assaulted Carroll.

To find him liable, the jury of six men and three women was required to reach a unanimous verdict.

Trump was absent throughout the trial which began on April 25.

In a post on his Truth Social platform, Trump called the verdict a “disgrace” and said, “I have absolutely no idea who this woman is”.

President from 2017 to 2021, Trump is the front-runner in opinion polls for the Republican presidential nomination and has shown an uncanny ability to weather controversies that might sink other politicians.

It seems unlikely in the United States’ polarised political climate that the civil verdict will have an impact on Trump’s core supporters, who view his legal woes as part of a concerted effort by opponents to undermine him.

“The folks that are anti-Trump are going to remain that way, the core pro-Trump voters are not going to change and the ambivalent ones I just don’t think are going to be moved by this type of thing,” Charlie Gerow, a Republican strategist in Pennsylvania, said.

Jurors were tasked with deciding whether Trump raped, sexually abused or forcibly touched Carroll, any one of which would satisfy her claim of battery.

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They were separately asked if Trump defamed Carroll.

Because this was a civil case, Trump faces no criminal consequences and as such there was never a threat of prison.

Trump’s legal team opted not to present a defence, gambling that jurors would find that Carroll had failed to make a persuasive case.

Trump had said Carroll, a former Elle magazine columnist and a registered Democrat, made up the allegations to try to increase sales of her 2019 memoir and to hurt him politically.

Because the case was in civil court, Carroll was required to establish her rape claim by “a preponderance of the evidence” – meaning more likely than not – rather than the higher standard used in criminal cases of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”.

Carroll had to show “clear and convincing evidence” to prove her defamation claim.

Jurors heard excerpts from a 2005 Access Hollywood video in which Trump says women let him “grab ’em” between the legs.

“Historically, that’s true, with stars… if you look over the last million years,” Trump said in an October 2022 video deposition played in court.

He has repeatedly denied allegations of sexual misconduct.

Citing the uniqueness of a civil case against a former president, the judge decided that the names, addresses and places of employment of the jurors would be kept secret.

After the verdict was read, the judge suggested the jurors each maintain their anonymity and directed them not to reveal the identities of other jury members.

-AAP

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