Federal judge dismissed Trump's counterclaim of defamation against 'rape' accuser E. Jean Carroll

August 9, 2023
Ben Marquis

In response to columnist E. Jean Carroll's repeated claims that former President Donald Trump "raped" her, despite a New York civil jury determining otherwise, Trump filed a counterclaim defamation lawsuit against his accuser in June.

Trump's countersuit was just rejected, however, by the federal judge presiding over the first of two defamation lawsuits that Carroll had filed against the former president, according to the Conservative Brief.

In doing so, the judge also essentially dismissed the civil jury's findings by pedantically quibbling over what sort of actions constitute "rape" under New York law and elsewhere -- despite the alleged sexual misconduct in the 1990s occurring wholly within the jurisdiction of New York's Penal Code.

Trump found liable for "sexual abuse," not "rape"

The Hill reported in June that, roughly one month after a New York civil jury decided that former President Trump had "sexually abused" -- but not actually "raped" -- Carroll and then defamed her with his repeated denials of her accusations of rape, and awarded her $5 million in compensation, Trump filed a counterclaim defamation suit in response to Carroll's continued assertions in the media that Trump had "raped" her in direct contradiction to the jury's findings.

He alleged that Carroll made "false statements with actual malice and ill will with an intent to significantly and spitefully harm and attack" him, which led to Trump suffering "significant harm to his reputation, which, in turn, has yielded an inordinate amount of damages sustained as a result."

The Hill noted that the civil defamation trial which ended in May was the second of two defamation suits Carroll had filed against Trump, and was largely focused on his post-presidency denials of her allegations of rape in a 1990s department store dressing room. The first of those lawsuits had been filed in federal court following then-President Trump's initial denials of Carroll's claim that first emerged in a 2019 book.

That first lawsuit was revived after being placed on hold for years and now also includes allegedly defamatory statements Trump made following the verdict of the civil trial in May, where, again, the jury had found that Carroll had failed to prove that Trump "raped" her, per New York's statutory definition, but had "sexually abused" and defamed her.

Judge picks and chooses definitions in decision to dismiss

Fast-forward to Monday, when ABC News reported that U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is presiding over the federal defamation suit filed in 2019 by Carroll, decided to reject former President Trump's counterclaim against Carroll with regard to her alleged defamation of him.

The judge ruled that the civil trial jury had "implicitly determined that he forcibly penetrated" Carroll with his fingers, and wrote, "[I]n other words, that Mr. Trump in fact did 'rape' Ms. Carroll as that term commonly is used and understood in contexts outside New York Penal Law."

"The instructions with respect to the rape question thus made clear that if the jury found that Mr. Trump forcibly penetrated Ms. Carroll's vagina with his fingers, but not also with his penis, it was obliged to answer 'no' to the rape question," Kaplan continued.

"However," the judge added, "if it found that Mr. Trump forcibly penetrated Ms. Carroll digitally, it was obliged to answer 'yes' to the sexual abuse question, as the New York Penal Law definition of 'sexual abuse' encompasses such conduct."

Carroll's attorney celebrates federal judge's ruling

That game of semantics with regard to the definition of "rape" and "sexual abuse" by Judge Kaplan appears strikingly similar in substance to a statement issued by Carroll's attorney, Roberta Kaplan -- no relation to the judge -- that were made in response to Trump's counterclaim in June.

"Donald Trump again argues, contrary to both logic and fact, that he was exonerated by a jury that found that he sexually abused E. Jean Carroll by forcibly inserting his fingers into her vagina," the attorney told The Hill at that time. "Four out of the five statements in Trump’s so-called counterclaim were made outside of New York’s one-year statute of limitations. The other statement similarly will not withstand a motion to dismiss."

Now, following Judge Kaplan's dismissal of Trump's countersuit, attorney Kaplan told ABC News, "That means that the January 15th jury trial will be limited to a narrow set of issues and shouldn't take very long to complete." She added, "E. Jean Carroll looks forward to obtaining additional compensatory and punitive damages based on the original defamatory statements Donald Trump made in 2019."

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