(NEW YORK) — Former Elle columnist E. Jean Carroll hugged her attorneys on her way into Manhattan federal court Tuesday at the start of her defamation and battery case against former President Donald Trump.
Carroll, who brought the lawsuit in November, alleges that Trump defamed her in a 2022 Truth Social post by calling her allegations “a Hoax and a lie” and saying “This woman is not my type!” when he denied her claim that Trump raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in the 1990s.
She added a charge of battery under a recently adopted New York law that allows adult survivors of sexual abuse to sue their alleged attacker regardless of the statute of limitations.
Trump has repeatedly denied Carroll’s allegations.
Two women are expected to testify during the trial that Carroll told them about the alleged attack shortly after it occurred. Two other women are expected to testify that Trump sexually assaulted them, claims that he denies, as Carroll’s attorneys try to show a pattern of conduct.
The judge has also agreed to allow excerpts of the so-called Access Hollywood tape on which Trump is overheard bragging to then-host Billy Bush about groping women.
The judge told prospective jurors Tuesday that he was looking to select jurors who are “willing and able to decide this case in a manner that is fair and impartial,” no matter what they may know about those involved.
“The name of the game here is utter fairness and impartiality,” Kaplan said. “The job of the jury will be to decide what did or didn’t happen at the department store, whether Ms. Carroll was or wasn’t raped” — and whether she should be compensated and whether defamation occurred, the judge said.
The judge began questioning prospective jurors with this question: “Is there anything about the nature of this case or the parties that would make it difficult for you to be entirely fair to both parties and to come to a just or impartial verdict?”
The former president was not present Tuesday as preparations as jury selection got underway.
Trump’s attorney, Joe Tacopina, told the judge Thursday that Trump will decide whether or not to attend as the trial proceeds.
The civil trial is being heard a block from the criminal courthouse where Trump pleaded not guilty earlier this month to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in connection with an alleged hush money payment to an adult film actress.
Kaplan last week denied Trump’s attempt to delay the start of this week’s trial for a month after Trump’s attorneys sought a four-week delay on the grounds that a “cooling off” period was necessary following intense media coverage of Trump’s criminal indictment.
“There is no justification for an adjournment,” Kaplan ruled. “This case is entirely unrelated to the state prosecution.”
The lawsuit is Carroll’s second against Trump and the trial is expected to last five days or so.
Carroll previously sued Trump in 2019 after the then-president denied her rape claim by telling The Hill that Carroll was “totally lying,” saying, “I’ll say it with great respect: No. 1, she’s not my type. No. 2, it never happened. It never happened, OK?” That defamation suit has been caught in a procedural back-and-forth over the question of whether Trump, as president, was acting in his official capacity as an employee of the federal government when he made those remarks.
If Trump is determined to have been acting as a government employee, the U.S. government would substitute as the defendant in that suit — which means that case would go away, since the government cannot be sued for defamation.
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