On Friday, a U.S. judge rejected former President Donald Trump’s request to exclude the “Access Hollywood” tape, in which he made vulgar comments about women, from a defamation lawsuit filed by writer E. Jean Carroll. Carroll has accused Trump of raping her in the mid-1990s and sought to introduce the tape as evidence that Trump had a history of sexual assaults.
Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled that while propensity evidence is generally inadmissible, a reasonable jury could infer from Trump’s comments on the tape that he had engaged in non-consensual sexual contact with women in the past. Trump has denied the rape allegation.
Carroll filed two defamation lawsuits against Trump in 2019 and 2022 after he publicly denied her accusations. In the 2022 lawsuit, she also included a battery claim under New York’s Adult Survivors Act, which allows victims of sexual abuse to sue their attackers even if the statute of limitations has expired. A trial is set for April 25.
In addition to the “Access Hollywood” tape, Judge Kaplan also ruled that testimony from two other women who accused Trump of sexual assault, Jessica Leeds and Natasha Stoynoff, could be admitted as evidence in the case.
The release of the “Access Hollywood” tape in 2016 caused widespread controversy during Trump’s presidential campaign. In the tape, Trump can be heard boasting about groping women without their consent, saying, “when you’re a star they let you do it.” The tape led to several Republican leaders publicly denouncing Trump and some even rescinding their endorsements.
While Trump was ultimately elected president, the tape and the numerous sexual assault allegations against him have continued to haunt him. The lawsuits filed by Carroll and others have also raised questions about the accountability of powerful men accused of sexual misconduct.
The ruling by Judge Kaplan is a victory for Carroll and her legal team, who have been fighting for the right to present evidence that supports her allegations against Trump. The case is also significant in its potential to set a legal precedent for the admissibility of propensity evidence in sexual assault cases.
The fact that Trump’s own words on the “Access Hollywood” tape could now be used against him in court is a powerful reminder that even the most powerful individuals are not above the law.