New York, USA – Donald Trump faces yet another legal battle in Manhattan, this time a defamation case brought by E Jean Carroll, who alleges she was sexually assaulted by the former US president. This trial comes on the heels of Trump’s recent legal woes, including the prospect of a $370m fine and potential collapse of his real estate empire in New York state court. Carroll’s case, set to play out in Manhattan federal court, adds to the list of criminal cases Trump is currently facing.
Carroll claims that Trump raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the late 1990s and sued him in 2019 over his denial of her claims, alleging that his statements had damaged her reputation. Although she could not initially sue Trump over the assault due to statute of limitations, the New York state’s Adult Survivors Act later allowed her to file a civil suit against Trump for the claimed assault. In the 2023 trial, jurors found Trump liable of sexual assault and defamation, awarding Carroll $5m.
The upcoming trial will not relitigate Carroll’s claim of sexual assault. Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled that Trump cannot deny the sexual assault, as it has been conclusively established by a jury’s previous finding. This means that jurors will only decide if Trump defamed Carroll with his 2019 statements and assess the financial penalties associated with his denial.
Furthermore, Trump cannot block testimony from Ashlee Humphreys, a Northwestern University marketing professor, whose testimony in Carroll’s first trial against Trump is expected to quantify the reputational harm Carroll endured as a result of Trump’s statements. Given Trump’s previous legal battles and combative approach, the outcome of this trial is uncertain.
Legal experts point to Trump’s extreme disadvantage in this case, attributing it to his public persona and behavior. One crisis PR expert noted, “If it was literally anyone else besides maybe Kim Jong-un or Vladimir Putin, I think she would probably lose.” The expert highlighted the burden on Trump to defend himself due to his public persona and suggested that his presence in the courtroom could further hurt him.
As the trial approaches, Carroll’s legal team did not comment, and a representative for Trump also did not immediately comment. With the stakes high and the outcome uncertain, the trial is set to be a high-profile legal battle in the heart of Manhattan.