Judge tosses Trump’s defamation suit against writer who won sexual abuse lawsuit against him
Aug 7, 2023, 4:39 PM
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge tossed out former President Donald Trump’s countersuit against the writer who won a sex abuse lawsuit against him, ruling Monday that Trump can’t claim she defamed him by continuing to say she was not only sexually abused but raped.
The ruling shuts down, at least for now, Trump’s effort to turn the legal tables on E. Jean Carroll, who won a $5 million judgment against him in May and is pursuing her own defamation suit against him. Trump attorney Alina Habba said his lawyers would appeal “the flawed decision” to dismiss his counterclaim.
Carroll’s lawyer, Robbie Kaplan, said she was pleased with the ruling and looking ahead to a trial scheduled in January in her defamation suit, which concerns a series of remarks that Trump has made in denying her sexual assault allegation.
“E. Jean Carroll looks forward to obtaining additional compensatory and punitive damages” in that trial, Kaplan said.
Carroll accused Trump of trapping her in a luxury department store dressing room in 1996, forcibly kissing her, yanking down her tights and raping her as she tried to fight him off.
He denies any of it happened, even that they ran into each other at the store. He has called her, among other things, a “nut job” who invented “a fraudulent and false story” to sell a memoir.
In this spring’s trial, a civil court jury concluded that Trump sexually abused Carroll but rejected her claim that he raped her. Legally, the difference depended on specifics of how, in the jury’s view, he penetrated her against her will.
When a CNN interviewer asked her what was going through her mind when she heard the rape finding, Carroll responded, “Well, I just immediately say in my own head, ‘Oh, yes, he did. Oh, yes, he did.’” She also said she had told one of Trump’s attorneys that “he did it, and you know it.”
Trump then sued Carroll, saying her statements were defamatory. He sought a retraction and money.
“These false statements were clearly contrary to the jury verdict,” the attorneys argued in court papers, saying the panel had found that rape “clearly was not committed.”
Jurors in the case were told that under the applicable New York law, rape requires forcible penetration by a penis, whereas sexual abuse would cover forcible penetration by a finger. Carroll alleged that both happened.
Carroll’s lawyers said that her post-verdict statements were “substantially true.”
So did the judge.
“The difference between Ms. Carroll’s allegedly defamatory statements — that Mr. Trump ‘raped’ her as defined in the New York Penal Law — and the ‘truth’ — that Mr. Trump forcibly digitally penetrated Ms. Carroll — are minimal,” Judge Lewis A. Kaplan wrote in Monday’s ruling. “Both are felonious sex crimes.”
“Indeed, both acts constitute ‘rape’” as the term is used in everyday language, in some laws and in other contexts, added Kaplan, who isn’t related to Carroll’s lawyer.
The Associated Press generally does not name people who allege they have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Carroll has done.