Judge lets ‘Access Hollywood’ tape into Trump rape trial

FILE - Columnist E. Jean Carroll leaves federal court, on Feb. 22, 2022, in New York. Former President Donald Trump's controversial remarks about women in an “Access Hollywood” tape can be heard at a civil trial resulting from a columnist’s claims that he raped her in the 1990s, a federal judge ruled Friday, March 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Larry Neumeister, File)
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Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump’s misogynistic remarks about women in an “Access Hollywood” tape and the testimony of two women who say Trump suddenly attacked them sexually can be heard at a civil trial resulting from a columnist’s claims that he raped her in the 1990s, a federal judge ruled Friday.

Judge Lewis A. Kaplan said lawyers for E. Jean Carroll can use the 2005 taped remarks by Trump to support her claims that she was attacked by Trump in the dressing room of a posh Manhattan department store.

He also ruled that Jessica Leeds can testify that Trump groped her and tried to put his hand up her skirt on a 1979 flight from Texas to New York before she changed seats.

And the judge said he’ll allow testimony by Natasha Stoynoff, who says Trump pinned her against a wall and forcibly kissed her at his Mar-a-Lago mansion in Florida when the former People Magazine staff writer went there in 2005 to interview the billionaire businessman and his then-pregnant wife.

Carroll sued Trump for defamation after he denied the rape ever happened or that he knew the former longtime Elle magazine columnist after she first described in a 2019 book her encounter with Trump in late 1995 or early 1996.

In the tape, the former president boasts graphically about how celebrities can molest women.

“In this case, a jury reasonably could find, even from the Access Hollywood tape alone, that Mr. Trump admitted in the Access Hollywood tape that he in fact has had contact with women’s genitalia in the past without their consent, or that he has attempted to do so,” Kaplan wrote.

The judge said he was not persuaded by Trump’s lawyers that the experiences of Leeds and Stoynoff were not similar to what happened to Carroll, who said she was raped after a friendly chance encounter with Trump in a luxury department store turned violent inside a dressing room.

“The alleged acts are far more similar than different in the important aspects,” he wrote. “In each case, the alleged victim claims that Mr. Trump suddenly attacked her sexually.”

Kaplan said their testimony, if believed, would likely “weigh heavily in the jury’s determination.”

A trial is scheduled for next month, but the judge has not yet specified whether it will include her defamation claims or will only pertain to rape accusations she made in November after New York state temporarily changed laws to let adult rape victims sue their abusers, even if attacks occurred decades ago.

In an October deposition for the upcoming trial, Trump was dismissive of Carroll’s claims, saying: “Physically she’s not my type,” though he misidentified her as an ex-wife of his when he was shown a photograph.

Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, confronted him with claims that two dozen other women have made against him, asking if any are true.

“I would say. I mean, I don’t see any. I mean, you haven’t shown me anything,” Trump responded, according to the transcript.

The Access Hollywood tape was revealed just weeks before Trump won the November 2016 presidential election.

In the tape, he said that sometimes when he sees beautiful women: “I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.” And he added that, “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” including grabbing women between their legs.

Afterward, he issued a rare apology, saying the comments were “locker room banter” caught on a hot mic.

In excerpts of his deposition for the April 25 trial, Trump said it’s been largely true “over the last million years” that celebrities can grab at women they find attractive. “Unfortunately or fortunately,” he added.

“And you consider yourself to be a star?” Kaplan asked.

“I think you can say that, yeah,” Trump responded

Attorney Roberta Kaplan, who is unrelated to the judge, declined to comment on the ruling. Lawyers for Trump did not immediately comment.

The Associated Press typically does not name people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Carroll, Leeds and Stoynoff have done.