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Judge tosses Trump's counterclaim against E. Jean Carroll, finding rape claim is 'substantially true'

The former president argued Carroll defamed him by maintaining he'd raped her after a civil jury found him liable for sexually abusing her.
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A federal judge in New York on Monday dismissed Donald Trump's countersuit against E. Jean Carroll, the writer who won a $5 million verdict against the former president for battery and defamation this year.

Trump filed his counterclaims against Carroll in June, alleging she defamed him by continuing to say publicly that he'd raped her even after a jury found him not liable for doing so.

But, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan noted Monday, the jury did find Trump liable for sexually abusing Carroll during an encounter in the dressing room of a New York City department store in the mid-1990s, and the details of that finding show that her having maintained that Trump raped her is "substantially true."

Kaplan dismissed Trump's counterclaim, which sought unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, as well as several of Trump's defenses against a separate pending defamation lawsuit brought by Carroll.

"We strongly disagree with the flawed decision and will be filing an appeal shortly,” Trump attorney Alina Habba said.

Carroll's lawyer Roberta Kaplan said she was "pleased" with the ruling, which means the impending Jan. 15 trial "will be limited to a narrow set of issues and shouldn’t take very long to complete."

Trump has denied wrongdoing in the case and is appealing the $5 million verdict. He didn't testify at trial.

Carroll's battery claim alleged that Trump raped her and sexually abused her in a Bergdorf Goodman department store near Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Asked on its verdict sheet whether Carroll had proven “by a preponderance of the evidence” that “Mr. Trump raped Ms. Carroll,” the nine-person jury checked the box that said “no.” Asked whether Carroll had proven “by a preponderance of the evidence” that “Mr. Trump sexually abused Ms. Carroll,” the jury checked the box that said “yes.”

Trump's defamation claim centered on an interview Carroll had with CNN the day after the verdict, when she was asked for her reaction to the jury's finding that she hadn't been raped. "Well, I just immediately say in my own head, 'Oh, yes, he did. Oh, yes, he did,'" she replied.

In his ruling, the judge noted the definition of rape he'd given the jury was "the narrow, technical meaning of that term" under New York law, which defines rape as forcible penetration with the penis.

The judge said the sexual abuse finding shows the jury believed Trump forcibly penetrated Carroll with his fingers. The verdict "establishes, as against Mr. Trump, the fact that Mr. Trump 'raped' her, albeit digitally rather than with his penis. Thus, it establishes against him the substantial truth of Ms. Carroll's 'rape' allegations," Judge Kaplan wrote.

He also denied Trump's claim of presidential immunity in Carroll's pending defamation case, finding Trump had waited too long to raise that defense. He also shot down Trump's argument that Carroll shouldn't be entitled to punitive damages.

The current case was filed before the case that resulted in the May verdict against Trump.

The original case, which the judge refers to as "Carroll I," alleges Trump defamed Carroll after she came forward with her rape claim in 2019, when he was president.

While that case was tied up on appeal, Carroll filed a second suit over the decades-old rape allegation that included a defamation claim for post-presidency comments Trump had made about her.

Carroll was able to file the battery claim after New York passed a law that opened a one-year window for adult victims of sexual offenses to file civil suits, even if the statute of limitations on their claims had expired, as it had for Carroll.

While Trump didn't take the witness stand in "Carroll II," he did sit for a deposition in the case last year, and excerpts of his sworn testimony were shown to the jury.

Prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney's office, which obtained an indictment charging Trump with falsifying business records relating to hush money payments, issued a subpoena to review the entire deposition, which Judge Kaplan signed off on in a ruling last week, court records show.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in the New York case, and his lawyers have accused the DA's office of engaging in a fishing expedition with the subpoena.