Prosecutors who are investigating Donald Trump may be pushed to bring forward criminal charges against the former president following the success of E. Jean Carroll’s civil case, according to a legal expert.
A New York jury ruled on Tuesday that Trump is liable for sexually abusing the former Elle columnist in a Bergdorf Goodman department store in the 1990s, then defaming her character while denying the assault took place.
As Carroll’s case was a civil trial and not a criminal trial, Trump will not be prosecuted for sexually abusing Carroll, nor will he be required to register as a sex offender. Instead, the former president has been ordered to pay Carroll a total of $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages over the sexual battery and defamation claims.
Trump has repeatedly denied assaulting Carroll. In a Truth Social post on Tuesday, Trump called the verdict a “disgrace” and the “continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all-time.”
Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor and the president of West Coast Trial Lawyers, told Newsweek that the ruling from the New York jury is politically an “embarrassing setback” for Trump, who is the favorite to clinch the GOP presidential nomination in 2024. But, the Republican may face even greater fallout from the jury’s ruling with regard to the criminal probes into the former president.
Just over a month ago, Trump became the first U.S. president in history to be charged with a crime as part of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s hush money probe. On April 4, Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records in relation to the $130,000 he arranged to be paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep an alleged affair the pair had a secret ahead of the 2016 election.
Trump remains the center of the Department of Justice‘s criminal probe into the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and attempts to overturn the 2020 election, as well as his alleged mishandling of classified materials found at his Mar-a-Lago home and attempts to obstruct federal attempts to retrieve the documents.
Trump could also be charged in Georgia, where Fulton County prosecutors are examining if the former president and his allies broke the law while trying to overturn the state’s 2020 election results.
“This verdict is an embarrassing setback for Donald Trump that will harm his presidential campaign. But he may face even more fallout on the legal front,” Rahmani told Newsweek. “Trump is currently under indictment in New York, and he’s being investigated by a special counsel in D.C. and the district attorney in Atlanta. This verdict could embolden those prosecutors to move forward.
“If any of those other cases end up going to a jury, those jurors will know Trump has been found civilly liable for sexually abusing a woman,” he said. “Even though each case is supposed to be decided on its merits, jurors aren’t blind and they can be influenced by a defendant’s past history.”
In December 2022, following several live presentations of evidence, the January 6 House Select Committee made a criminal referral to the DOJ recommending it charge Trump with four crimes, including conspiracy to defraud the government, and inciting or assisting an insurrection. An 845-page report by the panel also accused Trump of being the head of a “multi-part conspiracy” to overturn the 2020 election results.
Trump has frequently denied any wrongdoing in all criminal probes into him.
Personal injury attorney Sherif Edmond El Dabe, a partner with Los Angeles-based El Dabe Ritter Trial Lawyers, said that the ruling in Carroll’s case will not affect how the former president is viewed by his loyal MAGA base, but could “chisel away” at his reputation as someone who can ride out any scrutiny without severe consequences.
“Trump has developed a public persona that is immune to bad press. His supporters may not feel this adverse verdict against him will affect him in any way. In fact, a verdict against him may embolden his supporters because he has conditioned them to believe that he is being attacked by all sides,” El Dabe told Newsweek.
“However, it’s inescapable that a jury verdict against him declaring him liable will be something that his opponents seize upon. This verdict could chisel away at his ‘Teflon Don’ status.”
Trump earned the nickname “Teflon Don” as he was able to withstand a series of scandals, controversies, impeachments—and lately criminal charges—that would have otherwise ended another politician’s career.
Trump himself seemed to relish the reputation, telling a campaign rally crowd in January 2016 that he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”
The nickname was previously given to John Gotti, the head of the Gambino organized crime family after he was able to beat a number of criminal charges for years. The mob boss, who died in 2002, was eventually convicted in 1992 of offenses such as conspiracy to commit murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Even becoming the first U.S. president in history to be indicted and facing 34 felony charges in New York does not seem to have harmed Trump’s chances at the next election.
A recent Morning Consult poll found the former president is still the overwhelming favorite to clinch the GOP presidential nomination in 2024, leading Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is not confirmed he is running in 2024 but is widely seen as Trump’s biggest primary challenger, 60 percent to 19 percent.
Trump’s legal team said they plan on appealing the sexual battery and defamation ruling, and that Carroll’s suits against the former president were politically motivated.
“Make no mistake, this entire bogus case is a political endeavor targeting President Trump because he is now an overwhelming front-runner to be once again elected president of the United States,” a Trump spokesperson told Newsweek.
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