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Donald Trump’s Deposition Excerpts in E. Jean Carroll Rape Case Remain Sealed — For Now

E. Jean Carroll and Donald Trump

E. Jean Carroll and Donald Trump

Excerpts from Donald Trump’s deposition included as exhibits in writer E. Jean Carroll’s lawsuit accusing him of rape can remain sealed for now, a federal judge ruled on Monday afternoon.

The same federal judge previously ordered those Trump deposition passages unsealed earlier in the day, before he suddenly and unexpectedly reversed the initial ruling.

In the former order, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan noted that Trump’s legal team blew past their deadline to explain why those portions should be kept secret. The judge noted that Trump’s counsel was “obliged to file within three days a letter explaining the need to seal or redact the portions of the defendant’s deposition that was filed as part of an exhibit.”

“Defendant did not do so and has made no effort to justify the continued sealing of his deposition,” Kaplan’s one-page order stated.

Later in the day, however, Trump’s legal team noted that Kaplan appeared to have written the word plaintiff, referring to Carroll, when he should have written defendant, referring to the former president. Judge Kaplan then reversed his unsealing order, without explanation.

“I Was Shocked”

In 2019, Carroll stepped forward with her decades-old allegations against Trump, whom she accused of raping her inside the dressing room of a Bergdorf Goodman in the mid-1990s. She went public at the time, making the accusation on multiple cable TV shows and, briefly, in the pages of her memoirs.

Trump denied the allegations to reporters, saying: “She’s not my type.” That remark sparked a defamation lawsuit from Carroll against Trump. At the time, the statute of limitations barred filing an action alleging sexual assault, until New York passed the Adult Survivors Act. She filed separate claims for sexual battery subsequently.

As both lawsuit move through the courts, both Carroll and Trump have sat down for depositions. Carroll agreed to make portions of hers public. Trump did not.

Carroll’s deposition included graphic details of the alleged assault in the Bergdorf Goodman dressing room.

“I hit my head twice and then he had his hands on my arms, pushed me back a second time, hit my head and then he put his shoulder into me, and he’s a big man,” Carroll testified. “He’s — and he — guessing 220, maybe 225 at the time. I weighed 120. He was 100 more pounds. And that was one of the things that went through my mind was how big and heavy he was because his whole weight came, his shoulder came into me and so at this point I realized it was serious. I was shocked before because he put me against the wall but now I understood that this is — this is a battle, and he pulled down my tights.”

“Presumption in Favor of Public Access”

After the judge issued his unsealing order, Trump’s attorney Michael T. Madaio wrote a letter stating that they did not oppose unsealing only because of a discrepancy in the judge’s original order. The handwritten order said that the “plaintiff,” Carroll, had the obligation to oppose unsealing within three days, rather than the defendant: Trump.

“We had understood the December 20, 2022 order to place the burden on plaintiff to explain why unsealing of the confidential deposition transcript was necessary; this position was practical, in our view, since the excerpts were filed in connection with a proposed discovery plan and related solely to issues that were uncontested by the parties,” Madaio wrote. “Based on the above, in light of the Court’s Order clarifying its position, we respectfully request three days to file a letter opposing the unsealing of Defendant’s deposition excepts.”

However, the judge’s order granted an explicit request in a letter motion by Carroll’s lawyer Roberta Kaplan: “In accordance with Your Honor’s Individual Rules of Practice regarding sealed filings, plaintiff has notified the defendant that it must file, within three days, a letter explaining the need to seal or redact the materials consistent with the presumption in favor of public access to judicial documents.” Though they share a surname, the judge and the lawyer are not related.

Ultimately, Judge Kaplan apparently appeared to be convinced by Trump’s argument that his initial instructions required clarity. He handwrote the word “Granted” next to a stamp bearing the words “So Ordered” next to Trump’s counsel’s request.

There is also a pending motion before Judge Kaplan over whether to dismiss Carroll’s second lawsuit, which confront the rape allegations directly, rather than through the defamation claims.

Editor’s Note: Shortly after the publication of this story, a federal judge suddenly and unexpectedly reversed his order to unseal portions of Trump’s deposition. We have updated the story accordingly.

Read the judge’s order below:

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."