Trump Will Offer No Courtroom Defense in Rape Trial

From a New York Times story by Lola Fadulu, Kate Christopher, and Benjamin Weiser headlined “Trump Will Offer No Defense in Rape Trial, His Lawyer Says”:

A lawyer defending former President Donald J. Trump against the writer E. Jean Carroll’s lawsuit accusing him of rape said Wednesday that he would present no witnesses.

The lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, had earlier told the judge that Mr. Trump would not come to court to testify in the civil case. Mr. Trump, who is again running for president, traveled to Scotland this week to open a new golf course.

On Wednesday, speaking out of the jury’s presence, Mr. Tacopina told Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court in Manhattan that an expert witness the defense had hoped to call on Mr. Trump’s behalf was not available.

Even without witnesses, Mr. Trump’s lawyers can still use testimony they elicited during cross-examinations of Ms. Carroll and people who testified on her behalf when they make their closing argument to the jury.

Ms. Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta A. Kaplan, said she would likely finish presenting Ms. Carroll’s case by midday Thursday. Judge Kaplan, who is not related to Ms. Kaplan, told the jury that it would likely receive the case for deliberation early next week.

The Accusation

Ms. Carroll has said the attack took place during a visit to the luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman one evening in the mid-1990s. As she was leaving through a revolving door, Mr. Trump entered and recognized her, she testified, and persuaded her to help him shop for a gift for a female friend. She said the former president went on to rape her in a dressing room in the lingerie department.

At Mar-a-Lago

Ms. Carroll’s lawyers promised in their opening statement to show the jury not only that Mr. Trump had assaulted her, but also that he had assaulted two other women “in a remarkably similar way.”

The jury heard from one, Jessica Leeds, on Tuesday. They are expected to hear from the other, Natasha Stoynoff, on Wednesday afternoon. Shawn G. Crowley, a lawyer for Ms. Carroll, said in her opening statement that the jury would hear Ms. Stoynoff’s account of traveling in December 2005 to Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida to write a story for People magazine about his wedding anniversary.

“Mr. Trump led Ms. Stoynoff to an empty room, claiming that he wanted to show her something there,” Ms. Crowley said. “As soon as they got inside, Trump closed the door, grabbed Ms. Stoynoff’s shoulders, pushed her against the wall, and started kissing her.”

Ms. Stoynoff first told her story publicly in 2016.

In the Courtroom

When Mr. Tacopina cross-examined Ms. Carroll earlier in the trial, he highlighted what he described as her unusual behavior during the alleged attack and her inability to remember some key details afterward. On Wednesday, Ms. Kaplan questioned Dr. Leslie Lebowitz, a clinical psychologist who spent about 20 hours interviewing Ms. Carroll, in an attempt to put Ms. Carroll’s behavior in the context of common responses to traumatic events.

Dr. Lebowitz testified that when a person’s brain is inundated with stress hormones, the prefrontal cortex — part of the brain associated with logic and reasoning — shuts down and a person may “do things that appear to be illogical and irrational.”

Ms. Kaplan also questioned Dr. Lebowitz about why Ms. Carroll refused to use the words “rape” or “victim,” and how she has avoided men.

“She blamed herself for it — she felt like she was stupid in a way that was hard to shake,” Dr. Lebowitz said. But perhaps even more fundamentally than that, she said, “it made her feel like she was worth less than she had been before.”

Chad Seigel, one Mr. Trump’s lawyers, asked Dr. Lebowitz whether it would be fair to say that Ms. Carroll had presented her symptoms in a way that would benefit her case. “I don’t believe she did that,” Dr. Lebowitz said.

He asked whether Ms. Carroll had a “vested interest” in the case’s result.

“She certainly cares very much about the outcome of this case,” Dr. Lebowitz replied.

Sharp Elbows

The direct examination of Dr. Lebowitz was the first time that the jury saw Ms. Kaplan, who is Ms. Carroll’s lead lawyer and a prominent player in liberal legal circles, in sustained action.

Ms. Kaplan appeared frustrated with Mr. Seigel’s cross-examination of Dr. Lebowitz. After Mr. Seigel cut off Dr. Lebowitz as she was responding to one of his questions, Ms. Kaplan stood and argued directly with him. Judge Kaplan disapproved.

Ms. Kaplan objected to many of Mr. Seigel’s questions, contending they were “asked and answered” and “argumentative.” The judge sustained several of those objections.

The judge appeared irritated not only by the dynamic between the lawyers, but also by several lines of questioning. There is a “rule about how you are to do this, and this isn’t it,” Judge Kaplan told Mr. Seigel at one point.

Dr. Lebowitz, for her part, didn’t appear to be fazed. At times, she looked directly at the jury as she testified. During one sidebar among the lawyers, she leaned on the witness stand and took in the courtroom, gazing at a purple-and-blue piece of yarn work behind the judge’s bench.

Lola Fadulu is a general assignment reporter on the Metro desk.

Benjamin Weiser is a reporter covering the Manhattan federal courts. He has long covered criminal justice, both as a beat and investigative reporter. Before joining The Times in 1997, he worked at The Washington Post.

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