MANHATTAN (CN) — Accused of raping a magazine columnist in a department store dressing room, Donald Trump could face greater civil penalties in his protracted fight with the writer E. Jean Carroll under a newly minted law aimed at holding sexual abusers accountable for long-ago crimes.
Carroll's new lawsuit under the Adult Survivors Act compounds the 78-year-old's pending federal defamation lawsuit against the 76-year-old former president. Attorneys who specialize in sex-abuse cases say the law that took effect this past Thursday, Thanksgiving, can bridge the gap for those who were not ready to come forward immediately after an assault occurred.
A once popular advice columnist, Carroll has claimed for years that Trump raped her at Bergdorf Goodman in the mid-1990s. She says the real estate mogul recognized her as a fellow public figure while shopping at the iconic Manhattan department store and asked for her input on a gift he was buying. After some “playful banter,” the two moved toward the dressing room where she says Trump forced himself upon her.
Laying bare the lasting damage of that day bare, Carroll's latest filing explains: “Carroll has not been able to sustain a romantic relationship since the day Trump raped her. Nor has she engaged in sex with anyone since that time. In Carroll’s own words the ‘music had stopped’ and the ‘light had gone out’ after Trump attacked her at Bergdorf’s.”
Carroll detailed the account in her 2019 book “What Do We Need Men For?” and published an excerpt in New York Magazine. Trump denied the allegation and says he never met Carroll, despite a photograph showing the two of them at a social event.
“I’ll say it with great respect: Number one, she’s not my type,” Trump said on June 24, 2019, half way into his single-term presidency. “Number two, it never happened. It never happened.”
Those words were the basis for the ongoing defamation lawsuit Carroll brought against Trump in November 2019. The latest filing enhances her potential remedies.
“The big question is damages,” attorney Susan Crumiller, who specializes in discrimination and harassment in employment and health care, told Courthouse News.
“Each claim comes with its own damages associated with a claim. So when you bring a defamation case, you are basically suing for the damages that you suffered as a result of the defamation itself. … Whereas now she can assert claims for the harm she suffered as a result of the actual assault.”
Crumiller said called the newly available course of action from the Adult Survivors Act the more appropriate one.
“The defamation case is an example of creative lawyering,” she said. “The optimal claims weren't there. And now they are.”
Carroll's new lawsuit in the Southern District of New York alleges one battery count and one new defamation count.
For now, her first 2019 lawsuit is held up by a procedural dispute after Trump argued that the United States Department of Justice should stand in as the defendant, invoking the Westfall Act, which is typically used for cases like car collisions involving a federal government employee. The Second Circuit determined that the act does apply to the president but left it to the D.C. Court of Appeals to determine whether Trump's "not-my-type" comments occurred while Trump was doing his job.
Carroll’s attorneys have signaled that the cases should be consolidated — given the acknowledgement by U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan that doing so would share a substantial amount of the same discovery materials, each based on whether the alleged assault occurred. The new lawsuit was referred to Kaplan on Monday with a docket note that the two are “possibly related.”