NEW YORK: Donald Trump raped a prominent former American columnist then “ridiculed” her with defamatory comments, a US civil trial hearing a lawsuit against the ex-president was told Tuesday.
A lawyer for Trump, who denies the allegations, said the plaintiff E Jean Carroll was motivated by money and fame as opening arguments kicked off the much-anticipated proceedings.
Carroll, 79, says Trump sexually assaulted her in a changing room at the luxury Bergdorf Goodman department store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan in the mid-1990s.
She says the attack came after Trump playfully asked her for advice on buying a women’s lingerie gift.
“The moment they were inside (the dressing room) everything changed. Suddenly nothing was fun. Trump was almost twice her size,” Carroll’s lawyer Shawn Crowley told the Manhattan court.
The trial, which is not criminal in nature, is part of a barrage of legal woes that threaten to derail Trump’s 2024 run for a second presidential term.
It comes just weeks after Trump’s historic arraignment on criminal charges related to a hush-money payment made to a porn star.
Carroll, who was in court Tuesday, first made the allegation in an excerpt from her book published by New York Magazine in 2019.
Trump responded then by saying he has never met her, that she was “not my type” and that she was “totally lying.”
Carroll initially sued Trump for defamation in 2019 but was unable to include the rape claim because the statute of limitations for the alleged offense had expired.
But a new law took effect in November last year in New York that gave victims of sexual assault a one-year window to sue their alleged abusers decades after attacks may have occurred.
Lawyers for Carroll filed a new suit that accused Trump of battery, “when he forcibly raped and groped” her.
It also included defamation for a post that Trump made on his Truth Social platform in October where he denied the alleged rape and referred to Carroll as a “complete con job.”
“He went on the attack. He ridiculed her. He destroyed her,” Crowley said.
Joe Tacopina, representing Trump, said there was no evidence of the assault and that Carroll was “abusing the system for money, for political reasons, and for status.”
Her suit seeks unspecified damages for “significant pain and suffering, lasting psychological and pecuniary harms, loss of dignity and self-esteem, and invasion of her privacy.”
It also asks that Trump retract his comments.
Around a dozen women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct. He has denied all the allegations and has never been prosecuted over any of them.
No criminal prosecution can stem from the Carroll case but if Trump loses it will be the first time he has ever been held legally liable for an allegation of sexual assault.
Trump has provided sworn testimony in the case and is not expected to take the witness stand during the trial as Carroll’s lawyers have said they do not intend to call him.
The trial is likely to last one to two weeks.
Trump became the first sitting or former president to have ever been charged with a crime when he was arrested in the hush-money case earlier this month.
He pleaded not guilty to 34 counts related to the payment made just before the 2016 election that propelled him to the White House.
Trump is also being investigated over his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the southern state of Georgia, his alleged mishandling of classified documents taken from the White House, and his involvement in the storming of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.