(NEW YORK) — A former People magazine writer, testifying in E. Jean Carroll’s defamation and battery case against former President Donald Trump, told the jury that Trump pushed her against a wall and began kissing her while she was visiting his Mar-a-Lago estate on assignment in 2005.
Carroll, who brought the lawsuit in November, alleges that Trump defamed her in a 2022 Truth Social post by calling her allegations “a Hoax and a lie” and saying “This woman is not my type!” when he denied her claim that Trump raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the 1990s.
The former Elle magazine columnist added a charge of battery under a recently adopted New York law that allows adult survivors of sexual abuse to sue their alleged attacker regardless of the statute of limitations. Trump has denied all allegations that he raped Carroll or defamed her.
Former People writer Natasha Stoynoff told the jury she was at Mar-a-Lago in late 2005 to write an article on Donald and Melania Trump’s first wedding anniversary, when Trump asked to show her a room in the estate.
“I followed him and we went in through these back doors and down the hall and turned right into a room,” Stoynoff said. “I’m looking around, I’m thinking, ‘Wow, really nice room,’ wondering what he wants to show me, and I hear the door shut behind me.”
Stoynoff said she had interviewed Trump on a number of occasions as part of her assignment on the “Trump beat” for People. She testified that Trump asked her into the room while Melania was changing clothes in preparation for their interview outside.
“By the time I turn around, he has my hands on my shoulders and he pushes me against the wall and he starts kissing me,” Stoynoff testified. She said that she tried to shove him away.
“He came toward me again and I tried to shove him again,” Stoynoff said. “He was kissing me and he was against me, holding my shoulder back.”
She testified that she said no words.
“I couldn’t. I tried. I was just flustered and shocked. No words came out of me,” Stoynoff told the jury.
“Did you tell him to stop?” Carroll’s attorney, Michael Ferrara, asked. “I couldn’t,” Stoynoff answered. She said the encounter ended when a butler entered the room.
Stoynoff described herself as “ashamed and humiliated at what had happened,” and testified said nothing about it to her bosses at People because she didn’t want to cause trouble at the magazine.
She said she first decided to tell her story after she saw the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape that surfaced during the 2016 presidential campaign, on which Trump is overheard boasting to then-host Billy Bush about grabbing and kissing women without consent.
“You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait,” Trump says on the tape, which was played for the jury. “And when you’re a star they let you do it … You can do anything.”
“Whatever you want,” another voice on the tape is heard saying.
“Grab them by the p—-,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”
After Stoynoff made her allegation in 2016, Trump denied her claim by saying “Look at her. You tell me what you think. I don’t think so,” in a response that Carroll’s attorneys said echoed his assertion that Carroll was “not my type.”
On cross-examination, Trump attorney Joe Tacopina asked Stoynofff if she had a legal claim against Trump. She said no.
Stoynoff is one of two women who the court has ruled are allowed to testify about prior alleged assaults by Trump. On Tuesday, Jessica Leeds told jurors that Trump had groped her during a flight to New York in 1979, in what Carroll’s attorneys said showed a pattern of behavior on Trump’s part.
Leeds, who first made her allegations to The New York Times just before the 2016 presidential election, testified that she was seated next to Trump in the first-class section, “when all of a sudden Trump decided to kiss me and grope me.”
“It was when he started putting his hand up my skirt, that gave me a jolt of strength,” testified Leeds, who said she freed herself and went “storming back to my seat in the back of coach.”
Trump has denied the allegations.
Earlier Wednesday, Tacopina told Judge Lewis Kaplan that Trump will not mount a defense in the case.
Tacopina told the judge that he had decided not to call an expert witness that had been expected to testify for the defense. “We’re not going to move forward,” Tacopina said.
The judge told the jury to expect to get the case “early next week,” following testimony from additional witnesses for the plaintiff.
Carroll’s sister, Cande Carroll, testified Wednesday afternoon that she found out about her sister’s alleged rape in 2019 when Carroll sent her an email containing a link to an excerpt of Carroll’s 2019 book that contained the rape allegation.
That she found out about it that way was hardly surprising, she said, because she and her older sister “just didn’t talk about those things.”
On cross-examination, the younger Carroll testified that she and Carroll had a close relationship in the 1990s when the alleged rape occurred.
“You talked almost daily?” defense attorney Perry Brandt asked. “Most days,” Carroll responded, before Brandt asked her to affirm that the first she had heard of the alleged sexual assault by Trump was in 2019.
Earlier Wednesday, a psychologist testified that Carroll continued to shop at Bergdorf Goodman after the alleged attack because “she didn’t feel that Bergdorf Goodman raped her.”
“She didn’t blame the store. She blamed herself,” said Dr. Leslie Lebowitz, who evaluated Carroll for the case.
The defense suggested the fact that Carroll continued to shop at Bergdorf’s, saved the dress she wore the evening of the alleged assault, and watched Trump’s reality television show, “The Apprentice,” were behaviors out of step with the deep trauma Carroll said she suffered.
Lebowitz pushed back against the inference from the defense that Carroll’s rape claim against Trump could not be true because she did not act like it actually happened.
“I think anywhere Ms. Carroll could see evidence that she was negatively affected by what happened, she would fight against it. So to not go back into Bergdorf’s would have been really obvious, given how much she loved that store,” Lebowitz said.
The same holds true for the dress, Lebowitz said.
“I think that she loves clothes and that was the most expensive dress she’d ever brought,” Lebowitz said. “It would have been impossible to avoid the realization that she was that negatively affected.”
As for watching “The Apprentice,” Lebowitz said there was excitement about the show in Carroll’s professional and social circles. To not watch would have forced her to reveal why.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Chad Seigel asked Lebowitz if her diagnosis concluded that Carroll had been raped.
“You’re not offering an opinion in this case whether Ms. Carroll was raped?” Seigel asked.
“I’m not,” Lebowitz replied.
Lebowitz said that Carroll did meet some of the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder, including exhibiting signs of memories affected by trauma. She described a moment during her evaluation when Carroll “began to squirm in her seat” because she appeared to be “re-experiencing” elements of the alleged assault.
She also told the jury that rape victims commonly experience self-blame.
During her testimony earlier this week, Carroll said, “I was ashamed. I thought it was my fault.”
“Why did you think it was your fault, Ms. Carroll?” her attorney, Michael Ferrara, asked.
“Because I was flirting with him and laughing and having one of the great times. It was high comedy. It was funny,” Carroll said.
Trump attorney Joe Tacopina told Judge Kaplan at the conclusion of testimony Tuesday that Trump himself would not be testifying in the case.
“It’s his call,” the judge said. “I understand that. You understand that. He understands that.”
Trump is not required to appear, as the trial is a civil case and not a criminal one.
The nine-member jury of six men and three women is weighing Carroll’s defamation and battery claims and deciding potential monetary damages.
Carroll’s lawsuit is her second against Trump related to her rape allegation.
She previously sued Trump in 2019 after the then-president denied her rape claim by telling The Hill that Carroll was “totally lying,” saying, “I’ll say it with great respect: No. 1, she’s not my type. No. 2, it never happened. It never happened, OK?” That defamation suit has been caught in a procedural back-and-forth over the question of whether Trump, as president, was acting in his official capacity as an employee of the federal government when he made those remarks.
If Trump is determined to have been acting as a government employee, the U.S. government would substitute as the defendant in that suit — which means that case would go away, since the government cannot be sued for defamation.
This month’s trial is taking place as Trump seeks the White House for a third time, while facing numerous legal challenges related to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, his handling of classified material after leaving the White House, and possible attempts to interfere in Georgia’s 2020 vote. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said last week she would decide whether to file criminal charges against Trump or his allies this summer.
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