Sexual assault allegation against Trump heads to civil trial

Donald became the first sitting or former US president to have ever been charged with a crime when he was arrested in a hush-money case earlier this month

By AFP

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Photo: Reuters file
Photo: Reuters file

Published: Tue 25 Apr 2023, 10:11 AM

Jury selection is scheduled to start Tuesday in a civil trial pitting Donald Trump against a prominent former American columnist, who says he raped her in the 1990s.

E. Jean Carroll, 79, says Trump sexually assaulted her in a New York department store and then defamed her after she went public with the allegations years later.

Trump, who is facing a slew of legal woes that threaten to derail his 2024 run for a second term in the White House, denies the allegations.

The start of the trial comes just weeks after his historic arraignment on criminal charges related to a hush-money payment made to a porn star just before the 2016 election.

Carroll, a former columnist for Elle magazine, says she was raped by Trump in the changing room at the luxury Bergdorf Goodman department store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan in the mid-1990s. She said the attack came after Trump asked her for shopping advice.

Carroll first made the allegation in an excerpt from her book published by New York Magazine in 2019. Trump responded then by saying he never met Carroll, that she was "not my type" and that she was "totally lying."

Carroll first sued Trump for defamation in 2019 but was unable to include the rape claim because the statute of limitations for the alleged offense had expired. However, a new law took effect in November last year in New York that gives redress to victims of sexual assault decades after attacks may have occurred. It gave sexual assault victims in the state a one-year window to sue their alleged abusers even when the abuse occurred long ago.

Lawyers for Carroll filed a new suit that accused Trump of battery, "when he forcibly raped and groped" her. It also included defamation for a post that Trump made on his Truth Social platform where he denied the alleged rape and referred to Carroll as a "complete con job." The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for psychological harm, pain and suffering, loss of dignity, and damage to her reputation.

Trump is not expected to testify as Carroll's lawyers have said they do not intend to call him to the witness stand. The trial is likely to last between one to two weeks.

Trump became the first sitting or former president to have ever been charged with a crime when he was arrested in the hush-money case earlier this month.

He is also being investigated over his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the southern state of Georgia, his alleged mishandling of classified documents taken from the White House, and his involvement in the storming of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

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