A federal court jury in New York started deliberations Tuesday on a claim by a one-time magazine advice columnist that Donald Trump, 20 years before he became the U.S. president, raped her in a department store dressing room and then defamed her by dismissing the encounter as a “hoax.”

Trump is facing several criminal investigations stemming from his efforts to overturn his 2020 reelection loss and his retention of classified documents from his presidency at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

But the allegations made by E. Jean Carroll are being adjudicated in a civil, not criminal case, and carry no threat of a conviction or imprisonment for the 76-year-old Trump.

Instead, the nine-member jury — six men and three women — will have to decide by a unanimous vote whether there is a preponderance of evidence to believe the now 79-year-old Carroll’s contention that after a chance encounter with Trump at the upscale Bergdorf Goodman department store sometime in 1996, he lured her into a dressing room in the lingerie department, quickly pinning her against a wall, pulling down her tights, opening his pants and sexually assaulting her.

Trump did not appear in the courtroom, nor was he required to, to hear Carroll’s account. Two other women testified on her behalf that Trump unexpectedly assaulted them decades ago in similar fashion: A one-time stock broker said he groped her in the first-class cabin of a New York-bound flight and a journalist alleged that he suddenly started kissing her at Mar-a-Lago while she was there to report a story for People magazine on the first anniversary of his marriage to his third wife, former first lady Melania Trump.

Trump’s defense attorney, Joseph Tacopina, called no defense witnesses in the case, instead trying to chip away at Carroll’s account of the incident, noting that she could not remember the exact date the attack allegedly occurred, never reported it to police at the time nor went to a hospital for treatment, and only first made her allegation public in a 2019 memoir.

“It’s the most ridiculous, disgusting story. It’s just made up,” Tacopina told the jurors in his closing argument on Monday. Earlier, as the case opened two weeks ago, Tacopina said, “There are no witnesses to call to prove a negative” and that jurors would have to “believe the unbelievable” to rule in favor of Carroll, who is seeking a retraction of Trump’s denial of the incident and unspecified monetary damages.

On the witness stand, Carroll gave a searing account of her claimed encounter with Trump, even as she acknowledged she could not precisely pinpoint the date it occurred, although trial testimony indicated it might have been in the spring of 1996 on an early Thursday evening when the store was open later for shoppers.

Carroll testified that Trump used his weight to pin her against the dressing room enclosure. “I was pushing him back,” she said. “I was almost too frightened to think.”

“His fingers went into my vagina, which was extremely painful,” Carroll said. Then, she said, he inserted his penis, before she said she used her knee to push him away and fled.

She said that she was so traumatized by the incident that “it left me unable to ever have a romantic life again.”

During an extensive cross-examination by Tacopina, Carroll acknowledged that she did not scream for help.

She said rape victims are always asked, “‘Why didn’t you scream?'”

“He raped me, whether I screamed or not,” she declared.

In a taped video deposition from last October that Carroll’s.lawyers showed jurors,

Trump claimed that he would not have attacked Carroll, once a cheerleader and university beauty queen, because she was not his “type.” But he undercut his own claim when he was shown a picture of himself with Carroll at a New York social event in the 1970s: He misidentified her as his second wife, Marla Maples, while acknowledging all three of his wives were the type of women he was attracted to.

Carroll’s lawyers also showed jurors the 2005 video from the celebrity TV show “Access Hollywood,” in which Trump claimed that women allowed him to start kissing them and grabbing them by their genitals because he was a star.

Carroll lawyer Roberta Kaplan said Trump may not have appeared to testify in the case, but contended in her closing statement to the jurors that the videotape showed how he treated women.

Kaplan told jurors: “What is he doing here? He is telling you in his own words his modus operandi, his M.O. … he kissed them without their consent. The evidence shows overwhelmingly he followed this playbook and in the dressing room there grabbed” Carroll and assaulted her.

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