NEW YORK CITY — Lawyers for the prosecution and defense both rested their case Thursday in the rape and defamation lawsuit brought against former President Donald Trump by writer E. Jean Carroll, but testimony in the case may not yet be over.
Judge Lewis Kaplan said late Thursday that he would give Trump until 5 p.m. Sunday evening to change his mind about taking the witness stand in his own defense to rebut Carroll’s testimony that he raped her in a changing room in the Bergdorf Goodman department store in the mid-1990s and then lied about it. If Trump decides to testify, his lawyers must file a motion to reopen the case “for the sole purpose of testifying,” the judge said. Kaplan clarified that he will not necessarily grant the motion, simply that he would consider it.
In response to questions from the judge, Trump attorney Joe Tacopina said that he had communicated to his client that he had the right to appear in court and testify in the civil case, and that Trump had voluntarily waived that right. Tacopina told the judge he last spoke to Trump about this matter shortly before entering the courtroom earlier that morning.
But hours earlier, Trump spoke to members of the media at one of his golf courses in Ireland and indicated he was considering returning to the United States to participate in the trial.
“I have to leave Ireland, and I have to leave Scotland, where I have great properties,” Trump told reporters. “I have to leave early. I don’t have to, but I choose to.”
Carroll’s lawyers have mounted a strong case against the former president, calling a total of 10 witnesses, including Carroll herself and two other women who testified under oath that Trump had sexually assaulted them. Tacopina told the judge earlier this week that Trump would not testify in his own defense, and his lawyers did not call any other witnesses. The prosecution did, however, show Trump’s videotaped deposition to the jury, in which he denied sexually assaulting Carroll but also seemed to make a number of contradictory claims.
“I have to go back for a woman that made a false accusation about me, and I have a judge who is extremely hostile,” Trump told reporters in Ireland about whether he would testify after all. “And I’m going to go back, and I’m going to confront this. This woman is a disgrace, and it shouldn’t be allowed to happen in our country.”
If Trump’s lawyers fail to file a motion to reopen the case before the Sunday deadline, Kaplan said, “that ship has irrevocably sailed.”