E Jean Carroll said the world “finally knows the truth” after a jury had found Donald Trump liable for sexual abuse and defamation and ordered him to pay her nearly $5m.
“We’re very happy,” the beaming 79-year-old told reporters outside court before departing in a black SUV on Tuesday afternoon.
After hearing eight days of evidence, the jury took just two and a half hours to find Mr Trump liable for the 1996 sexual assault of Ms Carroll in a dressing room at the luxury Manhattan department store Bergdorf Goodman.
The jury ruled that Mr Trump was not liable for rape, but that he must pay Ms Carroll a total of nearly $5m in damages for sexual assault and defamation.
In a statement released after the verdict, Ms Carroll said: “I filed this lawsuit against Donald Trump to clear my name and to get my life back. 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 expressed her “deep and lasting gratitude to all those who have stood by me from the start”, singling out her legal team led by Roberta Kaplan “who never, ever backed down in pursuit of truth and justice.”
Ms Carroll spent nearly 13 hours on the witness stand where she recounted in graphic detail the violent sexual assault. Under cross examination, she was peppered with questions by defence counsel Joe Tacopina about why she hadn’t screamed for help during the sexual assault.
As the verdict was read out, Ms Carroll sat emotionless in the front row beside her attorneys Ms Kaplan and Shawn Crowley.
She nodded her head as Judge Lewis Kaplan thanked the jury for paying close attention to the evidence “even when it wasn’t riveting”.
After the jury was led out, she hugged Ms Kaplan and Ms Crowley. Mr Tacopina approached and shook her hand, and said “congratulations and good luck”.
In a statement, Ms Kaplan said the verdict showed that “nobody was above the law”.
“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.
“E Jean Carroll has never wavered in her strength, courage, and determination to seek justice. Donald Trump, on the other hand, failed to even show up in court. This is a victory not only for E Jean Carroll, but for democracy itself, and for all survivors everywhere.”
Mr Trump did not appear in court, but the jury was played his deposition and the Access Hollywood tape in which Mr Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women.
His “grab em by the p***y” comments amounted to a “confession”, Ms Kaplan told jurors in closing statements on Monday.
Ms Carroll “was exactly” Mr Trump’s type and had sexually assaulted her in the exact way that he had been caught describing his treatment of women on the infamous recording, Ms Kaplan added.
“In a real sense, Donald Trump is a witness against himself,” she said.
They also heard testimony from Jessica Leeds and Natasha Stoynoff, who are among the more than two dozen women have accused Mr Trump of sexual assault and misconduct.
After the verdict, Judge Kaplan thanked the nine-person jury, which has been shuttled to the court amid strict security from undisclosed locations each day.
He advised them not to reveal their identities to anyone, “not now, and not for a long time”.
In a rant on his Truth Social social media site after the verdict, Mr Trump repeated his false claims that he had no idea who Ms Carroll was.
Speaking outside court, Mr Tacopina told reporters that Mr Trump planned to appeal the verdict.
“He’s firm in his belief that he cannot get a fair trial in New York,” Mr Tacopina said.
Ms Carroll, a longtime Elle magazine advice columnist, first revealed details of the sexual assault in a book excerpt that ran in New York magazine in June 2019.
Ms Carroll testified that she and Mr Trump had engaged in playful banter after a chance encounter at Bergdorf Goodman one evening in the mid-1990s.
But after taking an escalator up to a deserted 6th floor to look for lingerie, Mr Trump led her to a dressing room, pushed her up against a wall and sexually assaulted her.
“It was extremely painful,” Ms Carroll told the jury. “He put his hand inside me and curled his finger. As I sit here today, I can still feel it.”
Ms Carroll added a charge of battery under a recently adopted New York law that allows survivors of sexual abuse to sue their alleged attackers despite the statute of limitations.
She told how the traumatic experience had left her incapable of forming romantic relationships.
The writer said she would be inundated with a “wave of slime” on social media every time Mr Trump commented or posted about her allegations.
The jury awarded Ms Carroll $2m in compensatory damages and $20,000 in punitive damages for the battery allegation. They awarded $1m in compensatory damages for the defamation and $1.7m for the repair of her reputation. The jury awarded another $280,000 in punitive damages for the defamation.