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Trump rape accuser’s claim not a ‘he said, she said,’ lawyer says as trial starts

By Luc Cohen, Jack Queen and Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – E. Jean Carroll’s accusation that Donald Trump raped her was not a “he said, she said” dispute, a lawyer representing the writer told jurors on Tuesday as a civil trial over the former U.S. president’s conduct nearly three decades ago got underway.

Shawn Crowley, who represents the former Elle magazine advice columnist, said during her opening statement that Trump “slammed Ms Carroll against the wall” and “pressed his lips to hers,” an account that other witnesses were prepared to verify.

“This is not a ‘he said, she said’ case,” Crowley said in federal court in Manhattan. She told jurors they would also hear testimony from two other women who say Trump assaulted them, which Trump denies.

Trump’s lawyer Joe Tacopina countered in his opening statement that the evidence will show the former U.S. president did not assault Carroll.

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Tacopina also asked jurors to set aside feelings they may have about Trump, who has long inspired strong opinions from supporters and opponents across the political spectrum.

“You can hate Donald Trump. It’s fine,” Tacopina said.

 

Crowley and Tacopina spoke after U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan sat nine jurors who will decide whether Trump raped Carroll in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in the mid-1990s, and defamed her by denying it happened.

In an October 2022 post on his Truth Social platform, Trump, 76, had called Carroll’s rape claim a “hoax” and “complete Scam,” said she made it up to promote her memoir, and declared Carroll was “not my type!”

Carroll, 79, is seeking unspecified damages for what she calls significant pain and suffering, lasting psychological harm, and invasion of privacy.

She invoked a new state law in New York giving adult sexual abuse victims a one-year window to sue their alleged attackers even if statutes of limitations expired long ago.

The trial is expected to last one to two weeks.

JUDGE WARNS ABOUT INCITEFUL STATEMENTS

Carroll’s case is among a slew of lawsuits and probes facing Trump, the Republican front-runner in the 2024 presidential race.

It could also be politically damaging as witnesses detail Trump’s alleged sexual misconduct, all of which he denies.

Read More: Former US President Donald Trump expects to be arrested on Tuesday

Among the other cases is Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s criminal case over hush money payments to a porn star. Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts on April 4 at a New York state courthouse, a three-minute walk from Tuesday’s trial.

Carroll’s trial began the same day President Joe Biden, a Democrat, said he would seek a second four-year White House term.

Before juror questioning began, Kaplan ordered Trump’s and Carroll’s lawyers to tell their clients and witnesses not to make statements that could “incite violence or civil unrest.”

He asked prospective jurors whether they agreed with Trump that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, or thought the #MeToo movement – which Carroll has said inspired her to come forward – would undercut their impartiality. None said they did.

Kaplan is also keeping jurors anonymous from the public and the lawyers, to shield them from potential harassment by Trump supporters, and even suggested that jurors not use their real names when speaking with one another.

“If you’re normally a Bill and you’re selected for the jury or even before, you can be John for a couple of days,” the judge told prospective jurors.

Trump was not in the courthouse and was not required to attend the trial. He was also unlikely to testify, according to lawyers from both sides.

The former president has repeatedly attacked Carroll in personal terms, once calling her mentally ill, since she first publicly accused him of rape in June 2019.

CARROLL SAYS TRUMP CALLED HER ‘THAT ADVICE LADY’

Carroll said her encounter with Trump at Bergdorf Goodman occurred in late 1995 or early 1996.

She said Trump recognized her, calling her “that advice lady,” and asked for help in buying a gift for another woman.


Carroll said Trump then “manoeuvred” her into a dressing room where he shut the door, forced her against a wall, pulled down her tights and penetrated her. She said she broke free after two to three minutes.

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Her witness list also includes two friends in whom she said she confided after the attack, author Lisa Birnbach and former news anchor Carol Martin.

Jurors are also expected to hear a 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump made graphic, vulgar comments about women.

Trump’s lawyers may try to undermine Carroll’s credibility by noting that she did not call the police, remained publicly silent for more than two decades, and cannot remember the date or even the month of the alleged attack.

Carroll is also suing Trump for defamation after he first denied her rape claim in June 2019, when he was still president. That case remains pending before Kaplan.

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