NEW YORK (AP) — A jury of six men and three women was chosen Tuesday to hear a former advice columnist’s lawsuit accusing former President Donald Trump of raping her in the 1990s. Opening statements were expected later in the day.
The federal civil trial stands to tests Trump’s “Teflon Don” reputation for shaking off serious legal problems and to reprise accounts of the type of sexual misconduct that rocked his 2016 presidential campaign as he seeks office again. He denies E. Jean Carroll’s claim and all the others, saying they were falsehoods spun up to damage him.
The jurors were selected after questioning about not only their background but their news-watching habits and more.
They were asked whether they had made political donations, supported any of a roster of right- and left-wing groups, used Trump’s social media platform, read Carroll’s former Elle magazine column and even if they’d seen Trump’s former reality show “The Apprentice” — and whether any of these and other matters would make it difficult for them to be fair.
Jurors’ names will be kept secret and they’ll be escorted to and from the courthouse to avoid any harassment or invasions of privacy, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan said.
The trial is in a federal civil court, meaning that no matter the outcome, Trump isn’t in danger of going to jail. He isn’t required to be in court, either, and his lawyers have indicated he most likely won’t testify.
The trial comes a month after he pleaded not guilty in an unrelated criminal case surrounding payments made to bury accounts of alleged extramarital sex.
Carroll is expected to testify about a chance encounter with Trump in late 1995 or early 1996 that she says turned violent. The trial will also include Carroll’s defamation claim against Trump over disparaging remarks he made about her in response to the rape allegations. She’s seeking unspecified damages and a retraction.
She says that after she ran into the future president at Manhattan’s Bergdorf Goodman, he invited her to shop with him for a woman’s lingerie gift before they teased one another to try on a garment. Carroll says they ended up alone together in a store dressing room, where Trump pushed her against a wall and raped before she fought him off and fled.
Since Carroll first made her accusations in a 2019 memoir, Trump has vehemently denied that a rape ever occurred or that he even knew Carroll.
Trump has labeled Carroll a “nut job” and “mentally sick.” He claimed she fabricated the rape claim to boost sales of her book.
“She’s not my type,” he has said repeatedly, although during sworn questioning in October, he also misidentified her in a photograph as his ex-wife Marla Maples.
Carroll didn’t stop to speak with reporters as she arrived at the courthouse Tuesday morning.
Jurors are also expected to hear from two other women who say they were sexually assaulted by Trump.
Jessica Leeds is set to testify that Trump tried to put his hand up her skirt on a 1979 flight on which the two were assigned neighboring seats. Natasha Stoynoff, a former People magazine staff writer, will testify that Trump pinned her against a wall and forcibly kissed her at his Florida mansion when she went there in 2005 to interview Trump and his then-pregnant wife Melania Trump.
Jurors will also see the infamous 2005 “Access Hollywood” video in which Trump is heard making misogynistic remarks about women, including an assertion that celebrities can grab, even sexually, women without asking.
Carroll’s allegations normally would be too old to bring to court. But in November, New York state enacted a law allowing for suits over decades-old sexual abuse claims.
Kaplan, who will preside over the trial, rejected a request by Trump’s lawyers that jurors be told that the ex-president wanted to spare the city the disruption his presence might cause.
Trump could still decide to attend the trial and testify. If he does not, the jury might be shown excerpts from his deposition, which was recorded on video.
On Monday, Kaplan instructed lawyers on both sides not to say anything in front of prospective jurors Tuesday about who is paying legal fees.
Earlier this month, the judge let Trump’s lawyers question Carroll for an extra hour after it was revealed that her lawyers had received funding from American Future Republic, an organization funded by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman. In earlier questioning, Carroll said the lawyers were relying solely on contingency fees.
The Associated Press typically does not name people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Carroll, Leeds and Stoynoff have done.