A judge on Monday dismissed a countersuit filed by former President Donald Trump that accused longtime magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll of defaming him earlier this year when she said that he had raped her.
The comment in question came during an interview with CNN one day after a jury found Trump liable for battery and defamation of Carroll. The former Elle magazine columnist said Trump sexually abused her in the dressing room at a luxury department store in New York in about 1996. A civil jury sided with her in May but found that Trump did not rape her.
On May 10, Carroll said on “CNN This Morning” that when she learned the jury’s decision, she said in her head, “Oh yes, he did – oh yes he did.”
She added that she said as much to Trump’s attorney, Joe Tacopina.
Trump filed a countersuit against Carroll, accusing her of making “defamatory statements” and repeating earlier lies during the May 10 interview. He sought compensatory and punitive damages as well as an order requiring Carroll to retract her statements.
However, in an opinion filed Monday in court, District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan highlighted that the jury was focused on determining whether Trump raped Carroll based on the definition under New York law. He added that Trump “did ‘rape’ Ms. Carroll as that term commonly is used and understood in contexts outside of the New York Penal Law.”
“The only basis for Mr. Trump’s assertion of falsity is the fact that the jury … was not persuaded that Mr. Trump had ‘raped’ her within the meaning of the New York Penal Law — in other words, that it did not find that he penetrated her vagina with his penis,” Kaplan wrote. “And that indeed was its decision. But that is insufficient to state a claim for defamation here.”
The judge noted that the jury established that Trump “‘raped’ her, albeit digitally rather than with his penis.” He added that the jury only addressed whether Trump had raped Carroll in the context of the Adult Survivors Act, which allowed Carroll to sue even though her encounter with Trump happened back in the 1990s.
Under the ASA, victims of sex offenses got a one-year window to file claims against their alleged abusers provided they could show that their case involved rape, sexual abuse or forcible touching.
Kaplan said that based on the jury’s finding in Carroll’s favor, her statements were “substantially true.”
In May, jurors ordered Trump to pay Carroll about $5 million in damages for battery and defamation. The former president has denied any wrongdoing, calling the jury’s decision a disgrace in video posted earlier this year on social media.
Kaplan has since allowed Carroll to amend her lawsuit to include comments Trump made at a CNN town hall after the jury’s verdict came down.