Notorious 'Access Hollywood' tape to be shown at Trump's defamation trial damages phase next week

  • Canadian Press

NEW YORK (AP) — The notorious 2005 “Access Hollywood” video in which Donald Trump was caught on a hot mic speaking disparagingly about women over a decade before he became president can be shown to jurors deciding what he owes a columnist he sexually abused and then defamed, a judge ruled Tuesday, setting ground rules for a trial next week.

U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan in a written order narrowed what lawyers can introduce at the trial beginning Jan. 16, but he allowed the video to be shown. The video was seen by a jury that in May concluded that Trump sexually abused E. Jean Carroll in a luxury department store in 1996 and defamed her in 2022. It awarded $5 million in damages.

In the tape, Trump was heard bragging about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women who were not his wife as he waited to make a cameo appearance on a soap opera in 2005. In a statement after the tape emerged shortly before the November 2016 presidential election, Trump dismissed it as “locker room banter” and “a private conversation.”

Kaplan wrote that a jury could find the “Access Hollywood” video to be useful insight into Trump’s state of mind regarding how he viewed Carroll specifically, given the similarity between the behavior he described on the video and Carroll’s sexual assault claim.

“The jury could find that Mr. Trump was prepared to admit privately to sexual assaults eerily similar to that alleged by Ms. Carroll,” the judge said.

Lawyers for Trump did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The jury in May did not find sufficient evidence to conclude that Trump raped Carroll, who had testified that the pair had a chance encounter that was flirtatious and humorous until Trump pushed her against a wall and sexually abused her in a Bergdorf Goodman store dressing room across from Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan.

Trump adamantly disputed Carroll’s claim that he raped her in the dressing room when she first revealed it publicly as she released a memoir in 2019, while Trump was president. He said he didn’t know her, she wasn’t his type and that she was likely making false claims to promote sales of her book and for political reasons.

Kaplan also ruled Tuesday that Trump’s attorney cannot introduce evidence or argument “suggesting or implying” that Trump did not sexually assault Carroll, that she fabricated her account of the assault or that she had financial and political motivations to do so.

Although the jury’s determination last year that Trump defamed Carroll pertained only to statements he made in October 2022, Kaplan ruled last year that the jury’s conclusions regarding remarks that were similar to what he said in 2019 and after the verdict last year means that only damages for defamation must be decided at next week’s trial.

Carroll, 80, is expected to testify at a trial projected to last about a week that Trump’s remarks subjected her to ridicule and threats and damaged her career and reputation. She is seeking $10 million in compensatory damages and substantially more in punitive damages.

Trump, 77, the leading Republican contender in this year’s presidential race, is listed as a witness for the trial, but he did not show up at last year’s trial and it is unknown whether he will testify.

As part of his ruling Tuesday, Kaplan said Trump will not be permitted to testify regarding whether he believed Carroll’s account and whether he personally questioned her motives. And the judge said Trump cannot claim he did not sexually abuse Carroll or that he did not have actual malice when he made public statements in June 2019.

At a speech in Iowa on Saturday, Trump told the crowd that he was warned by his lawyer not to attend last year’s trial because “it’s beneath you.”

He mocked Carroll at one point during the speech and complained that “now I have to pay her money, a woman who I have no idea who she is.”

After last year’s verdict, Trump attorney Joe Tacopina said the admittance of the “Access Hollywood” tape as evidence will be part of Trump’s appeal of the verdict.

Larry Neumeister, The Associated Press

Photo: AP