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Jury finds Trump liable in Carroll case, awards $5 million

In a civil case, a jury in New York today found that Donald Trump sexually abused E. Jean Carroll. Jurors awarded her $5 million in damages.


UPDATE (May 9, 2023, 5:23 p.m. ET): This post has been updated to include E. Jean Carroll's statement on Tuesday after a jury found Donald Trump liable for sexually abusing and defaming her.

After closing arguments wrapped up Monday in E. Jean Carroll’s defamation case against Donald Trump, jurors began their deliberations on Tuesday. While that process can be unpredictable, it turned out they only needed about three hours.

On Tuesday afternoon, the outcome of the civil case was announced: Jurors held the former president liable for sexual abuse and awarded Carroll $5 million in damages. NBC News reported:

Asked on their verdict sheet if Carroll, 79, had proven “by a preponderance of the evidence” that “Mr. Trump raped Ms. Carroll,” the nine-person jury checked the box that said “no.” Asked if Carroll had proven “by a preponderance of the evidence” that “Mr. Trump sexually abused Ms. Carroll,” the jury checked the box that said “yes.” Both allegations were elements of Carroll’s battery claim. The six men and three women also found Trump had defamed her by calling her claims a “hoax” and “a con job.”

The nine-member jury in the federal case was unanimous.

As my MSNBC colleague Lisa Rubin, who's been covering the trial from the courthouse in New York, explained after the verdict was announced, "E. Jean Carroll didn’t just get her day in court. She was vindicated on both her sexual assault and defamation claims."

In a statement following the verdict on Tuesday, Carroll thanked "all those who have stood by me from the start."

“I filed this lawsuit against Donald Trump to clear my name and to get my life back," she said. "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."

Oddly enough, as recently as this morning, Trump, who has long denied the allegations, insisted via social media that he was “not allowed to speak or defend” himself. That wasn’t even close to being true: Trump was offered multiple opportunities to testify in the case, but he chose not to.

The former president also responded to the outcome of the trial with a missive on his social media platform that read in its entirety, "I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHO THIS WOMAN IS. THIS VERDICT IS A DISGRACE - A CONTINUATION OF THE GREATEST WITCH HUNT OF ALL TIME!"

I have a hunch he knows who Carroll is now.

For those who might need a refresher on the underlying controversy, let's briefly revisit our earlier coverage. Carroll spent years as a prominent writer, media figure and advice columnist, including having hosted a show on America’s Talking, which later became MSNBC.

Three years ago, she also joined a long list of women who’ve accused Trump of sexual misconduct.

Carroll described an alleged encounter in a New York department store in the mid-1990s, which the writer described as a violent sexual assault committed by the future president. The writer said she confided in two friends shortly after the alleged incident, telling them at the time what she said occurred. Soon after, those friends came forward with on-the-record accounts.

The former president didn't just deny the claim, he also argued, among other things, that Carroll is a “liar” who isn’t his “type.” A defamation case soon followed, and though the Republican tried to get out of it, he and his attorneys failed to derail the case.

While jurors did not hear directly from the defendant in this case, they did see Trump’s deposition in which he was asked about the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape. Trump said in the deposition he considers himself a star, and he believes it’s “largely true” that stars have been able to get away with assaulting women “over the last million years ... unfortunately or fortunately.”

It stands to reason this did not help with his defense.

Looking ahead, there’s a financial dimension to this — it’s a safe bet the former president will not simply write a $5 million check today — as well as a political one. After hearing evidence and testimony, a jury concluded in a civil trial that Trump — by most measures, the frontrunner for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination — is liable for sexually abusing a woman. I realize the traditional political rules aren’t what they used to be, but this seems like a development that could, or at least should, have some impact on his national candidacy.

There's also a legal landscape to consider: As things stand, Trump has been impeached twice and indicted once. He's also currently at the center of several other ongoing criminal investigations; he's facing other civil litigation, including a sweeping case brought by the New York Attorney General’s office; and a jury today handed him the latest in a series of defeats.

But perhaps most important is the potential societal impact. As my MSNBC colleague Jessica Levinson explained this afternoon, the success of Carroll’s case “provides a roadmap for other victims.”