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Ahead of its second week, catch up on E. Jean Carroll's trial against former president Trump


Writer and advice columnist who says former President Donald Trump raped her nearly 30 years ago has been telling her story in a New York courtroom this week. E. Jean Carroll is suing Donald Trump in civil court for battery and defamation. NPR's Ilya Marritz has been in the courtroom. Ilya, thanks for being with us.

ILYA MARRITZ, BYLINE: Good to be here.

SIMON: I'd like to begin by taking a look at E. Jean Carroll. She's a writer whose work I have admired and enjoyed for years.

MARRITZ: Yeah, E. Jean Carroll is a very compelling figure, and she's led an adventurous life, to borrow her word. She was a beauty queen in Indiana. She came to New York, made a career in magazines, built a profile with her Ask E. Jean column. And she was really at the peak of her success - she had a daytime show on cable TV - at the time that she had a chance encounter with Donald Trump, which she said led to him sexually assaulting her.

SIMON: And E. Jean Carroll says that rape occurred in the changing room of the Bergdorf Goodman store in Manhattan. What was she like on the stand?

MARRITZ: It's been riveting to watch. Here is a 79-year-old woman who gives other people advice for a living, and she kept quiet about her own story for more than a quarter century. So on the stand, she described the alleged rape in graphic detail, but her emotion particularly showed when she was reflecting on the aftermath. She blamed herself for many years for allowing this to happen. She said she hasn't had sex or a romantic relationship since that day. Flirting ended up as the worst decision of my life, she said, because it was flirting with Donald Trump inside that department store that led her to follow him into the changing room where he allegedly raped her.

SIMON: Do we know if Donald Trump will testify?

MARRITZ: We don't know. He's on the witness list. At this point, it seems increasingly unlikely. But we do know the jury will see Donald Trump in clips from a recorded deposition. The recording was made last October. And we already know from excerpts that have been written about that Trump mistook Carroll for his second wife, Marla Maples, in a photo that was shown to him. So that will be used to rebut his claim that Carroll is, in his words, not my type.

SIMON: And how did the cross-examination by Donald Trump's team go?

MARRITZ: Well, they are treating E. Jean Carroll's story as fiction. Trump's attorney, Joe Tacopina, used the word supposedly in his cross-examination of Carroll. She shot back quickly, not supposedly. I was raped. Those are the facts. But there are a lot of gaps in Carroll's story, which Trump's team is pointing out, including the fact that she can't say the date or even the exact year the alleged rape happened. It was '95 or '96, she says. Joe Tacopina has been attacking Carroll's character very aggressively, saying Carroll made up a story to make money and then raise her profile. And he said she is minimizing true rape victims. She is exploiting their pain and their suffering.

SIMON: And, Ilya, what's next in the trial? What are you watching for?

MARRITZ: The first witness we expect back on the stand Monday is E. Jean Carroll for more cross-examination. One big question is, will the defense keep skating on thin ice with this judge? Even as the trial was getting underway, Trump was posting to social media, attacking Carroll and her lawyer. The judge warned that there could be additional legal penalties for that. Another thing - Carroll is not Trump's only accuser here. Somewhere around 20 women have accused him of sexual misconduct over the years, not in court but in the press. And two of those women are scheduled to testify under oath in this trial. Carroll's lawyers are hoping that that will help to show that this alleged rape was not a one-off, but part of a pattern. It's a civil trial, so the standard of evidence here in the assault allegation is preponderance of evidence. It's lower than what's required in a criminal trial.

SIMON: NPR's Ilya Marritz, thanks so much.

MARRITZ: You're very welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Ilya Marritz
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