Jury finds Donald Trump liable for sexual abuse and defamation in E. Jean Carroll case

By Maureen Chowdhury, Tori B. Powell, Mike Hayes and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 10:00 p.m. ET, May 9, 2023
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9:44 p.m. ET, May 9, 2023

Trump says he will appeal verdict that he sexually abused E. Jean Carroll

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he will appeal a Manhattan federal jury verdict that found he sexually abused E. Jean Carroll in a luxury department store dressing room in the spring of 1996.

"We’ll be appealing this decision. It’s a disgrace," Trump said in one of the several videos he posted to his social media platform Truth Social.

Trump maintained his claim that he does not know who Carroll is, and called the trial "very unfair."

Carroll was awarded about $5 million for sexual battery and defamation, in a significant defeat for the former president.  

"Somehow we’re going to have to fight this stuff," Trump said. "We cannot let our country go into this abyss. This is disgraceful.” 

9:18 p.m. ET, May 9, 2023

What E. Jean Carroll had to prove to win the case

From CNN's Lauren del Valle

Magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll arrives for the third day of her civil trial against former President Donald Trump at Manhattan Federal Court on April 27 in New York.
Magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll arrives for the third day of her civil trial against former President Donald Trump at Manhattan Federal Court on April 27 in New York. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

E. Jean Carroll has prevailed in her civil trial against Donald Trump with a federal jury finding the former president liable for battery and defamation and awarding the writer $5 million.

The panel in a Manhattan federal courtroom considered Carroll’s allegations that Trump raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman lingerie department dressing room in the spring of 1996, and then defamed her in a social media post last October. Trump has denied the allegations and called the verdict “a total disgrace” Tuesday.

Carroll filed the lawsuit last November under the “New York State Adult Survivors Act,” a state bill which opened a look-back window for sexual assault allegations like Carroll’s with long-expired statutes of limitation.

This is not a criminal trial. In a civil suit like Carroll’s, the jury had to determine whether Carroll’s legal team proved that Trump committed battery against Carroll by a preponderance of the evidence.

To prove her defamation claim, the jury had to find that Carroll’s legal team proved by the preponderance of the evidence that Trump knew it was false when he published the statement about Carroll last year and knowingly exposed her to public ridicule. They also had to determine that she proved by clear and convincing evidence that the statement was false, and that Trump made the statement with actual malice.

Both the preponderance of the evidence standard and the clear and convincing evidence standard are not as high a standard as proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is used in criminal cases. Clear and convincing evidence is higher than preponderance of the evidence, which means more likely than not. Clear and convincing evidence leaves no substantial doubt in the juror’s mind and establishes that the proposition is highly probable.

The jury had to be unanimous to reach a verdict but could have reached a different verdict on each of the two claims — battery and defamation.

8:23 p.m. ET, May 9, 2023

Here's what we know about the 9 jurors in the Trump case, which is very little

From CNN's Lauren del Valle

Very little personal information is public about the federal jury of six men and three women who found Trump liable for sexually abusing and defaming E. Jean Carroll in Manhattan on Tuesday.

Their identities were not divulged to Judge Lewis Kaplan, the attorneys or the public at any point in the process. They were instructed not to reveal any personally-specific information about themselves to further protect their identities.

After the verdict was read Tuesday, Kaplan informed the jurors that they are now allowed to identify themselves publicly if they choose — but he advised against it.

Kaplan suggested they not even reveal their own names to each other.

Here's what we do know about them:

  • The panel ranged in age from 26 to 65.
  • Two jurors work in security, one is a janitor, another works in a high school, another works for the public library, one works in a healthcare facility and one juror is retired.
  • Four jurors said they were married and five of them said they have children.
  • One juror has a master's degree and a second is pursuing a master's degree in library science.
  • Three jurors specified they completed their education as far as high school.
  • Three jurors live in counties outside New York City.
  • Four jurors said they don't obtain their news from any specific outlet. Three others said they don't watch the news or purposefully avoid it.
  • Two jurors said CNN is their main source of news.
7:48 p.m. ET, May 9, 2023

McCarthy won't say if he supports Trump after verdict. Here's what other GOP lawmakers are saying

From CNN's DJ Judd, Morgan Rimmer, Melanie Zanona, Kristin Wilson,  Alayna Treene and Manu Raju

McCarthy and Mitch McConnell speak to the media after meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House on May 09.
McCarthy and Mitch McConnell speak to the media after meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House on May 09. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy wouldn’t say Tuesday if he’d still support former President Donald Trump after a New York jury found him liable for battery and defamation in a civil lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll. 

“You know what, I’ve been in this meeting — let me find out what happened,” McCarthy, who was leaving an Oval Office meeting with President Joe Biden on the debt ceiling, told reporters at the White House.

In 2019, McCarthy told reporters he believed Trump’s account denying Carroll’s accusations. 

“I’ve never met her — I understand what the President [Trump] said, though I nothing more about the situation… I know the president said this is not true, I haven’t — don’t know anything else about it,” he told reporters at the time, adding, “Yes, I believe the President.”

Meantime, Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer described the verdict as a serious issue.

“I'd much rather have a president that doesn't have that history, but at the same time, at some point, there'll be a binary choice, and then we'll make it," Cramer said.

The North Dakota senator said that while the verdict is “not even disqualifying to the American people,” it does go to Trump's electability.  

“That and several other things cause me to question whether he'd be the best nominee for the party. This is why I haven't endorsed anybody yet. I'm keeping an open mind,” he said. 

Sen. Mitt Romney, who has long been critical of the former president, said he hopes the verdict leads people to conclude he isn’t fit for office.

“The jury of his peers found him guilty of sexual assault and awarded $5 million to the person who was damaged. I hope the jury of the American people reach the same conclusion about Donald Trump,” the Utah senator said.

Rep. Don Bacon, a moderate Republican who represents a district President Joe Biden won, said Trump “got what he deserved."

“The jury spoke and I respect the jury,” he said. “I think he showed a lot of disrespect for the jury and the court… The way he treated them, he got what he deserved.”

Bacon has already said he wouldn't support Trump for president in 2024 and added that he thinks the former president is "too divisive" and would not win the White House.

A lawmaker who has endorsed Trump for president, Rep. Matt Gaetz, said he doesn’t think the verdict “is gonna make much of a difference,” in the election.  

“I certainly don't believe that Donald Trump abused anyone,” the Florida lawmaker said.

Asked about some of his Republican colleagues saying they find it hard to see how they could support a presidential candidate who was found liable for battery and defamation, Gaetz said, “I don't share that view.”

Senate Minority Whip John Thune said that he does not think the ruling will affect the Trump base, but may influence some swing voters.

But, Sen. John Cornyn said it’s difficult to assess the political fallout for Trump, in part, because so many voters have strongly defined positions about him.  

“People who love him will still support him and people who don't, won't. I just think it's too early to tell what the effect will be if there will be any effect at all,” Cornyn said.

Several senators dismissed the New York legal system and questioned the jury.

Sen. Lindsey Graham simply told reporters, “I think the New York legal system is off the rails when it comes to Donald Trump.”

Former GOP presidential hopeful, Sen. Marco Rubio, said, “That jury is a joke, the whole case is a joke."

Ohio freshman Sen. JD Vance, who is a strong supporter of the former president, said he was skeptical of the verdict from jurors in liberal New York City because it "seems obsessed with going after Donald Trump,” he said. 

CNN's Nicky Robertson and Ted Barrett contributed reporting to this post.

5:52 p.m. ET, May 9, 2023

"The world finally knows the truth,” Carroll says following verdict

From CNN’s Kara Scannell

E. Jean Carroll leaves a Manhattan court house after a jury found former President Donald Trump liable for sexually abusing her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990's on May 9 in New York City.
E. Jean Carroll leaves a Manhattan court house after a jury found former President Donald Trump liable for sexually abusing her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990's on May 9 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

E. Jean Carroll called the outcome of her civil lawsuit against former President Donald Trump a victory for her and other victims of abuse.

A jury found Trump liable for sexually abusing and defaming Carroll on Tuesday.

“I filed this lawsuit against Donald Trump to clear my name and to get my life back,” Carroll said in a statement. “Today, the world finally knows the truth. This victory is not just for me but for every woman who has suffered because she was not believed.”

She also thanked her legal team and those who stood by her.

Her attorney Roberta Kaplan applauded Carroll's determination and courage to speak out and seek justice. "No one is above the law, not even a former President of the United States,” Kaplan said.

“For far too long, survivors of sexual assault faced a wall of doubt and intimidation. We hope and believe today’s verdict will be an important step in tearing that wall down,” Kaplan said, adding, “This is a victory not only for E. Jean Carroll, but for democracy itself, and for all survivors everywhere.”

4:57 p.m. ET, May 9, 2023

Trump's attorney says former president will appeal the verdict

Joe Tacopina, attorney for former President Donald Trump, arrives for the third day of a civil trial against the former president at Manhattan Federal Court on April 27 in New York City.
Joe Tacopina, attorney for former President Donald Trump, arrives for the third day of a civil trial against the former president at Manhattan Federal Court on April 27 in New York City. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Donald Trump's attorney Joe Tacopina called the jury's decision in the civil trial Tuesday a "strange verdict," noting that the jury rejected the rape claim against his client.  

While the jury found that Trump sexually abused E. Jean Carroll in 1996, sufficient to hold him liable for battery, the jury did not find that Carroll proved he raped her. He does not face any jail time as a result of the civil verdict.

Tacopina, speaking outside the Manhattan courthouse, said that they would "obviously" be appealing the verdict.

Trump is "firm in his belief" that he cannot get a fair trial in New York City "based on the jury pool," the attorney said. 

"I think one could argue that that's probably an accurate assessment, based on what happened today," Tacopina said.

He said there were many issues to for an appeal.

"We made many motions that we thought would create issues for appeal, and we are going to employ them now. You know, there were things that happened in this case that were beyond the pale," he said.

4:33 p.m. ET, May 9, 2023

Why the verdict in E. Jean Carroll's civil case doesn't impact Trump's ability to run for president

From CNN's Tierney Sneed

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally on April 27 in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally on April 27 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The verdict in E. Jean Carroll's case against Donald Trump has no legal effect on his 2024 presidential candidacy.

For one, it is a civil case, and during the 2016 campaign, Trump also faced all sorts of civil action, like the fraud cases concerning Trump University. Those were settled shortly after he was elected and had no bearing on the requirements for the presidency laid out in the Constitution.

Trump also faces unrelated criminal exposure, most prominently in the case that Manhattan prosecutors have brought against him for hush money payments to women claiming extramarital affairs with him.

There are also federal criminal investigations — one concerning the mishandling of documents from his White House and another into the efforts to disrupt Congress’ 2020 election certification — are also encircling him, as is an Atlanta-based probe into the election subversion plots.

Similarly, a successful criminal prosecution of the former president is unlikely to affect, at least from a legal standpoint, his ability to be reelected to the White House.

Notably, there is a precedent for convicted felons to run for federal office — including for the office of the presidency.

Eugene Debs, a perennial socialist candidate for the White House in the early 20th century, was incarcerated on an espionage conviction when he won more than 900,000 votes in a 1920 presidential campaign.

4:16 p.m. ET, May 9, 2023

What is the difference between sexual abuse and rape, according to New York law

From CNN staff

The jury in the E. Jean Carroll civil case against Donald Trump had been instructed that a person is liable for sexual abuse when he subjects another person to sexual contact without her consent. 

Under New York law, “sexual contact” means “any touching of the sexual or other intimate parts of a person for the purpose of gratifying the sexual desire of either party.” 

The state’s law says that a person is liable for rape when a person forces sexual intercourse with another person without their consent. For the purposes of this law, “sexual intercourse” means “any penetration, however slight, of the penis into the vaginal opening.” 

Both sexual abuse and rape are sexual offenses in New York.  

While the jury did not find that Carroll had proven rape, they did find that she proved Trump committed sexual abuse, allowing her to receive damages for her civil battery claim. 

4:04 p.m. ET, May 9, 2023

Trump calls jury verdict a "total disgrace"

From CNN's Kristin Holmes

Former President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower in New York on April 3.
Former President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower in New York on April 3. Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump called the jury’s verdict a “total disgrace” and said it was a “continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time,” in a post on Truth Social

He continued to claim he did not know who E. Jean Carroll was in the post.

His spokesman Steven Cheung echoed Trump in a statement calling the case "bogus."