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Writer’s lawyers say Trump is wrong about $5 million sex abuse-defamation jury award

NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump’s claim that a jury sided with him when it agreed he didn’t rape an advice columnist in a luxury Manhattan department store in the 1990s was an erroneous interpretation of the jury’s $5 million award and its finding that he sexually abused her, her lawyers said Thursday.

The lawyers urged a federal judge to reject a request by Trump’s attorneys that he lower the amount for sexual abuse and defamation awarded to the writer, E. Jean Carroll, to less than $1 million or let another jury hear evidence about damages and make its own determination.

In doing so, the attorneys said Trump’s lawyers had unjustly tried to mischaracterize the May verdict, which resulted from a two-week trial. Trump did not attend the trial, though extensive excerpts of his recorded October deposition were shown to jurors.

Carroll, 79, testified that Trump, 77, turned a flirtatious and fun chance encounter between the two into a violent sexual assault inside a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the spring of 1996, leaving her so traumatized that she never had another romantic relationship.

The jury awarded $2 million in compensatory damages for sexual abuse. Most of the rest of the $5 million award was for defamation. Trump’s lawyers said the sex abuse award was grossly excessive and the rest was based on pure speculation.

In papers filed after the verdict, Trump’s attorneys argued that the jury’s conclusion that he sexually abused Carroll “could have included groping of Plaintiff’s breasts through clothing, or similar conduct, which is a far cry from rape.”

“In fact, that was not a version of events that was presented to the jury at trial at all,” Carroll’s lawyers wrote. “The word ‘breast’ was not used a single time during Carroll’s testimony, in contrast to the word ‘vagina,’ which was used repeatedly.”

They added: “Trump cannot now demand that damages be based on some imaginary version of events in which he did nothing more than touch Carroll’s breast through her dress.”

The jury award likely resulted from its understanding that Carroll repeatedly “has had to relive the painful sensation of Trump’s fingers jamming inside her,” Carroll’s lawyers said.

Carroll first made her claims publicly in a 2019 memoir that she was raped by Trump. Immediately, the then-president denied it and disparaged her claims, saying he didn’t know her and had never been inside a department store with her.

Her lawyers said the portion of the jury verdict attributed to defamation was well earned by someone “defamed by one of the loudest voices in the world, in a statement read by millions and millions of people, which described you as a liar, labeled your account of a forcible sexual assault a ‘hoax,’ and accused you of making up a horrific accusation to sell a ‘really crummy book.’”

The trial judge, Lewis A. Kaplan, recently agreed to let Carroll amend a second defamation lawsuit still pending against Trump with fresh defamation claims resulting from comments Trump made at a CNN town hall a day after the verdict.

Carroll is now seeking $10 million more in compensatory damages and substantially more in punitive damages after Trump called her a “whack job” and repeated his claims that she made up the story that he attacked her.

Trump attorney Joe Tacopina said he would not comment beyond what was written in submissions to the judge.

The Associated Press typically does not name people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Carroll has done.

The former president announced his third campaign for the White House on Nov. 15. In March, Trump became the first former U.S. president to be criminally charged, facing 34 felony counts in a Manhattan courtroom of falsifying business records as part of a hush money scheme. He is now under federal indictment on dozens of charges related to alleged mishandling and retention of classified documents. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.