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Judge clarifies: Yes, Trump was found to have raped E. Jean Carroll

After Donald Trump was found liable for sexually abusing and defaming E. Jean Carroll, his legal team and his defenders lodged a frequent talking point.

Despite Carroll’s claims that Trump had raped her, they noted, the jury stopped short of saying he committed that particular offense. Instead, jurors opted for a second option: sexual abuse.

“This was a rape claim, this was a rape case all along, and the jury rejected that — made other findings,” his lawyer, Joe Tacopina, said outside the courthouse.

A judge has now clarified that this is basically a legal distinction without a real-world difference. He says that what the jury found Trump did was in fact rape, as commonly understood.

The filing from Judge Lewis A. Kaplan came as Trump’s attorneys have sought a new trial and have argued that the jury’s $5 million verdict against Trump in the civil suit was excessive. The reason, they argue, is that sexual abuse could be as limited as the “groping” of a victim’s breasts.

Kaplan roundly rejected Trump’s motion Tuesday, calling that argument “entirely unpersuasive.”

“The finding that Ms. Carroll failed to prove that she was ‘raped’ within the meaning of the New York Penal Law does not mean that she failed to prove that Mr. Trump ‘raped’ her as many people commonly understand the word ‘rape,’ ” Kaplan wrote.

He added: “Indeed, as the evidence at trial recounted below makes clear, the jury found that Mr. Trump in fact did exactly that.”

Kaplan said New York’s legal definition of “rape” is “far narrower” than the word is understood in “common modern parlance.”

The former requires forcible, unconsented-to penetration with one’s penis. But he said that the conduct the jury effectively found Trump liable for — forced digital penetration — meets a more common definition of rape. He cited definitions offered by the American Psychological Association and the Justice Department, which in 2012 expanded its definition of rape to include penetration “with any body part or object.”

Kaplan also flatly rejected the Trump team’s suggestion that the conduct Trump was found liable for might have been as limited as groping of the breasts.

The reason? Trump was not accused of that, so the only alleged offense that would have qualified as “sexual abuse” was forced digital penetration. Beyond that, Trump was accused of putting his mouth on Carroll’s mouth and pulling down her tights, which Kaplan noted were not treated as alleged sexual abuse at trial.

“The jury’s finding of sexual abuse therefore necessarily implies that it found that Mr. Trump forcibly penetrated her vagina,” Kaplan wrote, calling it the “only remaining conclusion.”

Kaplan also noted that the verdict form did not ask the jury to decide exactly what conduct Trump had committed, and that neither prosecutors nor Trump’s lawyers had requested it to do so.

“Mr. Trump’s attempt to minimize the sexual abuse finding as perhaps resting on nothing more than groping of Ms. Carroll’s breasts through her clothing is frivolous,” Kaplan wrote.

He added that the jury clearly found that Trump had “ ‘raped’ her in the sense of that term broader than the New York Penal Law definition.”

The motion was a part of Trump’s efforts to appeal the verdict against him. That’s an effort that will apparently continue as he faces a separate defamation lawsuit from Carroll, dealing with claims Trump made about her allegations while he was still president.

But for now, Trump’s effort to push back has led to a rather remarkable clarification that severely undercuts his main talking point.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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