(AP) Donald Trump should be held accountable for sexually attacking an advice columnist in 1996 because even a former president is not above the law, a lawyer for the columnist told a jury Monday in closing arguments in the lawsuit that accuses Trump of rape.
A lawyer for Trump responded by calling the accuser’s account unbelievable and saying nobody is below the law either.
Attorney Roberta Kaplan, representing writer E. Jean Carroll in her claims against Trump, showed jurors video clips of Trump from his October deposition and replayed the “Access Hollywood” video from 2005 in which Trump said into a hot mic that celebrities can grab women’s genitals without asking.
Kaplan recalled Trump’s comment that “stars like him can get away with sexually assaulting women.”
“That’s who Donald Trump is. That is how he thinks. And that’s what he does,” Kaplan said. “He thinks he can get away with it here.”
Kaplan used Trump’s words to support Carroll’s claims that Trump raped her in early spring 1996 in the dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman, a luxury department store across the street from Trump Tower.
Trump’s attorney, Joe Tacopina, attacked the allegations as absurd, saying they were an “affront to justice” and minimized “real rape victims.”
He agreed with Kaplan that no one is above the law, but he warned that “no one’s below it.”
Tacopina told jurors they won’t have to “let her profit to the tune of millions of dollars” because they will be left with “no doubt about how this story, this scam of a lawsuit, came together.”
Repeatedly, Tacopina labeled Carroll’s claims as “unbelievable,” saying she brought them to raise her status and for political reasons.
And he said even Carroll had testified that it was an “astonishing coincidence” that a “Law and Order” offshoot aired an episode in 2012 in which a woman is raped in the dressing room of a Bergdorf Goodman.
“What is the likelihood of that?” Tacopina asked. “One in 20 billion? One in 10 billion?”
Kaplan told jurors that it wasn’t a “he said, she said” case but rather one in which jurors should weigh what 11 witnesses, including Carroll, said versus what they heard from Trump in his video deposition.
“He didn’t even bother to show up here in person,” Kaplan said, referring to Trump’s absence from the proceedings in federal court in Manhattan. She told jurors that much of what he said in his deposition and in public statements “actually supports our side of the case.”
“In a very real sense, Donald Trump is a witness against himself,” she said. “He knows what he did. He knows that he sexually assaulted E. Jean Carroll.”
Kaplan recounted the testimony of two women who say they too were attacked sexually by Trump.
Jessica Leeds, 81, said he grabbed her chest and ran his hand up her skirt on a 1979 airline flight. Natasha Stoynoff said he forcibly kissed her at his Florida mansion in 2005 as she worked on a story about his marriage for People magazine.
Trump has insisted in public statements and in the deposition that Carroll made up the claims to boost sales of a 2019 memoir. He has called Carroll “mentally sick” and a “disgrace.”
Carroll, 79, who is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, testified for more than two days. Kaplan praised her testimony as “credible.”
“It was consistent, and it was powerful,” the lawyer said.
She contrasted that testimony with Trump’s deposition, noting that a man who had derided Carroll as not his “type” was shown a photograph of Carroll from over three decades ago and twice misidentified her as his second wife, Marla Maples.
“Carroll, a former cheerleader and Miss Indiana, was exactly Mr. Trump’s type,” Kaplan said. “She is smart. She is funny. She is beautiful. And, most of all, she is courageous.”
Carroll said she was leaving the Bergdorf Goodman store through a revolving door in spring 1996 when Trump was entering the store and stopped her to help him shop for a gift for a woman.
Carroll, a former “Saturday Night Live” writer, said they took escalators to the store’s desolate sixth floor, where they teased each other about trying on a piece of see-through lingerie.
She said she entered a dressing room with Trump before the flirting turned violent, with Trump slamming her against a wall, pulling down her tights and raping her. She said she kneed him after an encounter that lasted several minutes and fled the store.
Carroll blames the encounter in part for never having another intimate relationship in her life.
Trump’s public comments are the basis of Carroll’s defamation claim. Kaplan labeled the comments as lies and said they ruined her client’s reputation and forced an end to her 27-year employment as an Elle magazine advance columnist.
Kaplan urged jurors to find in favor of “my brave client, E. Jean Carroll,” but she put no number on the damages being sought.
“Consider the evidence and pick a number you think is right,” she said. “This lawsuit is not about the money. This lawsuit is about getting her name back.”
Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who is unrelated to Roberta Kaplan, told jurors that they would begin deliberations Tuesday after he spends about an hour reading them the law that will pertain to battery and defamation, the two allegations they must decide. If they find in Carroll’s favor, they can award damages too.