A federal judge has rejected former President Donald Trump’s request for a new trial in the civil lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll, stating that the jury came to the conclusion that Trump’s alleged “rape” of Carroll qualified as sexual abuse under the New York law.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan rejected Trump’s request for a new trial following the earlier decision that Carroll was entitled to $5 million in damages. According to Kaplan’s ruling, the jury’s initial verdict wasn’t “seriously erroneous” or a “miscarriage of justice.”
“On the subject of Trump’s liability for sexual abuse, Kaplan explained that the way in which the Carroll jury determined that Trump ‘raped’ her according to the common sense of the word, but by the legal definition in New York State, the act falls under ‘sexual abuse’ because Carroll couldn’t definitively prove Trump vaginally penetrated her with his penis,” Mediaite reported.
The jury’s unanimous verdict in Carroll II was almost entirely in favor of Ms. Carroll. The only point on which Ms. Carroll did not prevail was whether she had proved that Mr. Trump had “raped” her within the narrow, technical meaning of a particular section of the New York Penal Law – a section that provides that the label “rape” as used in criminal prosecutions in New York applies only to vaginal penetration by a penis. Forcible, unconsented-to penetration of the vagina or of other bodily orifices by fingers, other body parts, or other articles or materials is not called “rape” under the New York Penal Law. It instead is labeled “sexual abuse.”
As is shown in the following notes, the definition of rape in the New York Penal Law is far narrower than the meaning of “rape” in common modern parlance, its definition in some dictionaries, in some federal and state criminal statutes, and elsewhere.
The finding that Ms. Carroll failed to prove that she was “raped” within the meaning of the New York Penal Law does not mean that she failed to prove that Mr. Trump “raped” her as many people commonly understand the word “rape.” Indeed, as the evidence at trial recounted below makes clear, the jury found that Mr. Trump in fact did exactly that.
So why does this matter? It matters because Mr. Trump now contends that the jury’s $2 million compensatory damages award for Ms. Carroll’s sexual assault claim was excessive because the jury concluded that he had not “raped” Ms. Carroll. Its verdict, he says, could have been based upon no more than “groping of [Ms. Carroll’s] breasts through clothing or similar conduct, which is a far cry from rape.” And while Mr. Trump is right that a $2 million award for such groping alone could well be regarded as excessive, that undermines rather than supports his argument. His argument is entirely unpersuasive.
Last month, Trump filed a counterclaim against author Carroll, alleging she defamed him in remarks she made on CNN after triumphing in a civil trial last month against him.
Carroll claimed that during an encounter in the 1990s at a department store in New York City, Trump sexually attacked her. The former president has angrily denied it.
Carroll received $5 million from Trump in May after a jury ruled him responsible for sexual assault and defamation. He was not found to be responsible for rape.
“Trump filed the counterclaim on Tuesday that alleged that Carroll defamed him when she accused him of raping her during an appearance on CNN on May 10, which is just a day after a nine-member jury found that Trump did not commit rape. According to the counterclaim, Trump alleged that Carroll defamed him when she said, ‘oh yes he did, oh yes he did,’ in response to an interview question on CNN asking for her thoughts on the jury’s ruling that Trump was not liable for rape,” The Hill reported.
Trump argued in his counterclaim that Carroll made “these false statements with actual malice and ill will with an intent to significantly and spitefully harm and attack.” According to the filing, Trump “has been the subject of significant harm to his reputation, which, in turn, has yielded an inordinate amount of damages sustained as a result.”
Trump’s lawyers argued that Carroll’s comments on CNN were made on multiple platforms to make sure they reached a large audience.
“The interview was on television, social media, and multiple internet websites, with the intention of broadcasting and circulating these defamatory statements among a significant portion of the public,” Trump’s lawyers argued in the filing.
“Counterclaim Defendant made these false statements with actual malice and ill will with an intent to significantly and spitefully harm and attack Counterclaimant’s reputation, as these false statements were clearly contrary to the jury verdict in Carroll II whereby Counterclaimant was found not liable for rape by the jury,” it said.
The counterclaim said Carroll’s comments “constitute defamation per se, as Counterclaim Defendant accused Counterclaimant of rape, which clearly was not committed, according to the jury verdict in Carroll II.“
“Due to Counterclaim Defendant’s repeated falsehoods and defamatory statements made against the Counterclaimant, Counterclaimant has been the subject of significant harm to his reputation, which, in turn, has yielded an inordinate amount of damages sustained as a result,” the filing said.