By Larry Neumeister – The Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) – A federal judge on Wednesday upheld a $5 million jury verdict against Donald Trump, dismissing the former president’s claim that the award was excessive and that the jury justified him by failing to conclude that he raped a columnist in the dressing room of a luxury department store in the 1990s.
Judge Louis A. Kaplan said in May that it was reasonable for a jury to award author E. Gene Carroll compensatory and punitive damages for sexual abuse and defamation in a civil suit.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers had asked Mr. Kaplan to reduce jury fees to less than $1 million or order a new trial for damages. In their arguments, the defense team argued that the $2 million jury award for Carroll’s sexual assault allegations was excessive because the jury concluded that Trump did not rape Carroll at Bergdorf Goodman’s Manhattan store in the spring of 1996.
Others are reading…
Kaplan wrote that the jury’s unanimous verdict was almost entirely in Carroll’s favor, except that the jury concluded that Trump had failed to prove that Trump had raped Carroll “within the narrow technical meaning of certain provisions of the New York Penal Code.”
The judge said that although the article calls for vaginal penetration by a penis, forced penetration of a person’s vagina or other bodily orifice, such as by fingers without consent, is considered “sexual abuse” rather than “rape.”
He said the definition of rape is “much narrower” than it is in modern common parlance, some dictionaries, and some federal and state penal codes.
The judge said the ruling did not mean that Carroll “failed to prove that Trump ‘raped’ her, as many people generally understand the word ‘rape’.” Indeed…the jury determined that Mr. Trump did indeed do just that. ”
Trump’s attorneys were correct in arguing that the $2 million sexual abuse award would have been excessive if a jury had ruled on the conclusion that Trump touched Carroll’s breasts through her clothes or did something similar, the judge said. But the jury won’t, he said.
“There was absolutely no evidence of any such conduct. Rather, the evidence was convincingly established and the jury tacitly found that Mr. Trump intentionally and forcefully penetrated Ms. Carroll’s vagina with his finger, causing immediate pain and causing long-lasting emotional and psychological damage,” Kaplan wrote.
The judge said Trump’s argument “ignored much of the evidence at trial, misinterpreted the jury verdict, falsely focused on the definition of ‘rape’ in the New York Criminal Code, and excluded the meaning of words so often used in everyday life and evidence of what really happened between Carroll and Trump.”
Lawyers for Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential primary, did not immediately comment on Wednesday, but quickly amended their appeal to the trial to add to the judge’s ruling.
Robbie Kaplan, an attorney who represents Carroll and is independent of the judge, said in a statement: “E-Jean Carroll looks forward to receiving the $5 million in damages awarded by the jury after the court denied President Trump’s motion to retrial or reduce the verdict.”
The attorney said his client is also looking forward to a second defamation trial against Trump, scheduled for January. The allegations are based on statements he made while Trump was in office and statements he made after his trial.
Since being sent to court in early May after a two-week trial, Trump has maintained that he never met Carole at a department store and didn’t know her until he claimed she raped him in his 2019 memoir.
At trial, Carroll testified for three days, alleging that Trump sexually assaulted her in the fitting room of a store in Midtown Manhattan after they met at the entrance and flirted with each other while buying clothes for one of Trump’s friends. The store is across from Trump Tower.
Trump, 77, did not attend the trial. In a social media post last week, he said the lawyers “didn’t want me to testify or even attend the trial, out of respect for the president’s office and distrust of the case…”
After the trial, Carroll, 79, added a new claim to her pending defamation claim, seeking an additional $10 million in damages and further unspecified punitive damages.
Trump filed a countersuit against Carroll, alleging she was defamed for continuing to claim that she had been raped even after her sentencing.
The Associated Press typically doesn’t release the names of people who claim to have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward like Carroll.
Copyright 2023 Associated Press. all rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.