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- Lawyers made opening statements in E. Jean Carroll’s rape trial against Donald Trump.
- Trump’s lawyer asked jurors to dismiss the case even if they “hate” Trump.
- Jurors are staying anonymous given the charged nature of the case.
In his opening statement defending Donald Trump in a rape trial Tuesday, attorney Joe Tacopina asked jurors to find him not liable of battery and defamation even if they “hate” the former president.
“You can hate Donald Trump. It’s OK,” lawyer Joe Tacopina told jurors. “But there’s a time and secret place for that: It’s the ballot box.”
Tacopina’s message to the jury in a federal court in downtown Manhattan followed an opening statement from Shawn Crowley, an attorney representing E. Jean Carroll in the case.
In 2019, Carroll went public with her claim that Trump raped her in a dressing room of Manhattan’s Bergdorf Goodman department store in the mid-1990s.
“She struggled to break free, but she couldn’t,” Crowley said in her opening statement. “Trump was about twice her size.”
When Trump denied the allegations, insulted Carroll’s appearance, and called her a liar, she accused him of defamation.
Carroll filed the lawsuit, alleging defamation and battery, late last year after New York state passed a law allowing plaintiffs to bring civil sexual assault lawsuits in cases where they’d otherwise be barred by the statute of limitations.
US District Judge Lewis Kaplan moved swiftly to bring it to trial, despite multiple attempts from Trump’s legal team to delay the case. Carroll also has a separate defamation lawsuit, over the same claims, which has been slowed by appellate courts and remains pending.
Crowley said her team would show evidence and bring forth evidence proving Carroll’s version of events, including testimony from friends she told at the time about the alleged rape.
Tacopina, in his own opening statement, said Carroll and her friends cooked up the story because she hated Trump’s politics and wanted to make herself more famous.
Despite the charged nature of the case, jurors were seated in the span of several hours, shortly before the court’s lunch break on Tuesday. Kaplan ensured prospective jurors weren’t already familiar with the details of the case, and asked that they remain impartial while hearing court testimony. The trial is expected to last about a week overall.
Kaplan made arrangements to keep the jurors anonymous after expressing concern that they could face “harassment or worse” from Trump and his supporters. On Tuesday, he suggested they use fake names throughout the deliberations process to help protect their privacy. Kaplan also asked attorneys for both parties to advise their clients against “making any statements that will incite violence or civil unrest” to “try to avoid problems down the road.”
Trump didn’t personally show up to court on Tuesday, and Kaplan hasn’t required him to appear in the case. Tacopina said he didn’t want to “distract” from what he claimed were inconsistencies in Carroll’s version of events.
“There’s no more for him to add,” Tacopina said.
Tacopina said jurors would see him testify through videos of depositions he took for the case. In one video, Tacopina, said, jurors may observe that Trump appears angry.
“You’re going to see him get angry. That’s understandable — he’s been falsely accused of rape,” Tacopina said.
Carroll’s team is expected to call their first witness on Wednesday morning.