In an unprecedented verdict, former President Donald Trump was held liable for sexual assault and defamation of the writer E. Jean Carroll. The jury awarded Carroll a total of $5 million.
The jury did return one verdict in Trump’s favor, finding that he was not liable for “rape.” All in all, this was a big win for Carroll and a big loss for Trump.
THE JURY ACTED WITH AMAZING SPEED
In my 25 years as a trial attorney, I have rarely seen a jury come back with a verdict as quickly as this jury did. Jurors began deliberations at approximately 11:30 am, and sent a note to Judge Kaplan approximately three hours later that they had a verdict. This tells me that each juror likely began deliberations believing that Trump had assaulted and defamed Carroll.
Jurors may later tell us whether any initially wanted to also find Trump liable for rape, although Judge Kaplan advised the jurors that they would be wise not to speak to the press for a long time.
Within those three hours, the jury not only decided liability, but also computed damages. Their awards were:
Sexual assault — $2,000,000
Punitive damages — $280,000
Wanton disregard — $ 20,000
Defamation (loss) — $1,000,000
Defamation (reputation repair) — $1,700,000
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SEXUAL ASSAULT AND RAPE
The jury found Donald Trump liable for the sexual assault of E. Jean Carroll, but not for rape.
The difference between sexual assault and rape under New York law is that sexual assault required the jury to find that Donald Trump forcibly touched E. Jean Carroll’s genitals without consent. Rape required proof that Donald Trump’s penis penetrated E. Jean Carroll’s vagina.
It appears that the jury concluded that Carroll’s vivid testimony that Trump’s fingers “rummaged” inside of her vagina was accurate. It also appears that the jury rejected her testimony that Trump followed by penetrating her vagina with his penis.
In this small regard, the closing argument of Trump’s attorney Joe Tacopina was effective. He argued that it was physically impossible for Trump to have pinned Carroll against the wall with his shoulder, had one hand inside of Carroll, and simultaneously unzip his pants to expose his penis.
If anyone ever asks me for the definition of a “pyrrhic victory,” I will use the example of Trump’s pyrrhic victory on the charge of rape in this case.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Trump’s attorneys will likely move Judge Kaplan to overturn the verdict as being unsupportable as a matter of law, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50. They may also move for a new trial, claiming that the verdict was against the weight of the evidence, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59. Based on his prior rulings in this case, including denying Trump’s motion for a verdict in his favor after Carroll rested her case, I expect that Judge Kaplan will quickly deny these motions.
Even before the verdict, Trump had stated on Truth Social that he would “appeal.”
If Trump files an appeal, that would not stay the $5 million verdict against him, which Carroll can attempt to collect beginning 14 days from now. Rather, in order to obtain relief from having to pay Carroll while he appealed, Trump would have to file an appeal bond (called a “supersedeas bond”) for $5 million (plus interest at 9 percent) with the Court.
If the Court approves the bond, Carroll would not be able to collect from Trump until all appeals were exhausted. If Trump were to lose all appeals, the bond would be paid over to Carroll.
CARROLL WON BY A KNOCKOUT
If this trial were a boxing match, E. Jean Carroll won by a knockout in the first round. Her direct testimony of being sexually assaulted by Donald Trump clearly convinced the jurors, and nothing that the defense threw at her convinced the jurors to change their mind. Carroll showed up to testify at trial, and the jury believed her. Trump did not show up, and the jury concluded that he had sexually assaulted Carroll.
For the rest of his life, former President Donald Trump—the current 2024 GOP frontrunner—will bear the burden of having been held liable for sexually assaulting E. Jean Carroll.