Former US President Donald Trump waves as he departs Trump Tower in New York on Apr 13, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)
NEW YORK — 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 US president's conduct nearly three decades ago got under way.
Shawn Crowley, who represents the former Elle magazine advice columnist, said in her opening statement that Trump "slammed Ms. Carroll against the wall" and "pressed his lips to hers," an account other witnesses were prepared to verify.
Her lawsuit 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
"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 sexually assaulted them, which Trump denies.
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Trump's lawyer Joe Tacopina countered in his opening statement that the evidence will show the former US president did not assault Carroll.
Tacopina also asked jurors in strongly Democratic Manhattan to set aside their feelings for Trump, a Republican and former New Yorker who has inspired strong opinions from across the political spectrum.
"You can hate Donald Trump. It's fine," Tacopina said.
Earlier in the day, US 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, 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 pain and suffering, psychological harm and invasion of privacy.
Her lawsuit 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 resume on Wednesday and 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.
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 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 screened jurors for bias, asking if 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," Kaplan said.
Trump did not attend the trial and is not required to, and according to lawyers from both sides is unlikely to testify.
He has repeatedly attacked Carroll and in personal terms, once calling her mentally ill.
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 "maneuvered" 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.
Her witness list includes two friends in whom she said she confided after the attack, author Lisa Birnbach and former news anchor Carol Martin.
The two other women who may testify that Trump sexually assaulted them are Jessica Leeds, who has said Trump groped her while seated beside her on a 1979 flight, and Natasha Stoynoff, who said Trump attacked her in 2005 at his Florida mansion where she planned to interview him and his wife Melania.
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Jurors are also expected to hear a 2005 "Access Hollywood" tape on 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 day or month of her 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.