NEW YORK – Former President Donald Trump faced an unwelcome Thanksgiving Day entrée - a new lawsuit accusing him of battery and defamation in the alleged assault of E. Jean Carroll, a former magazine advice columnist.
The latest legal trouble for Trump comes after he recently announced a 2024 White House run, and after Attorney General Merrick Garland tapped a special counsel to handle investigations involving him.
Carroll, who's already suing Trump for defamation over his denials and comments about her following the assault allegations, filed the new battery lawsuit in Manhattan federal court on Thanksgiving Day.
That's when New York state's recently approved Adult Survivors Act opened a one-year window for survivors of sexual assault that occurred when they were past age 18 to sue alleged abusers, no matter when an assault may have occurred.
Until the law's enactment in May, many similar allegations were barred from being pursued in court by laws that set a maximum time period for suing.
Both cases focus on what Carroll alleges in the new lawsuit was playful banter in a New York City luxury department store roughly 27 years ago that "took a dark turn" when Trump suddenly "forced her up against a dressing room wall, pinned her in place with his shoulder, and raped her."
Trump has denied Carroll's allegations, saying in 2019 that the alleged assault "never happened."
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Attorneys representing Carroll included a copy of the proposed lawsuit in a letter filed last week with U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan, who's presiding over the defamation case. Her lawyers asked Kaplan to delay the scheduled Feb. 6 trial date in the defamation lawsuit and try the two cases together starting on April 10.
The letter noted the proposal is contingent on an expected District of Columbia appeals court decision about the scope of a U.S. president's employment and whether Trump should be legally shielded from Carroll's defamation lawsuit because he made the alleged comments as part of his duties as president, as his attorneys have argued.
Separately, Trump's lawyers previously argued that the U.S. government, which has sovereign immunity from lawsuits, should be substituted for him in Carroll's defamation case.
"This court has already recognized that 'whether Mr. Trump raped Ms. Carroll is the paramount issue in both cases,' and the inclusion of a new claim based on an allegedly defamatory statement that closely tracks the existing defamatory statements only reinforces that conclusion," wrote Roberta A. Kaplan, an attorney representing Carroll.
The letter said lawyers for Trump agreed with extending the February trial date, but wanted a longer postponement and would not discuss any schedule that involves the new lawsuit.
In a previous letter to the judge, defense attorney Alina Habba wrote that Trump "wholly and adamantly" objected to consolidating the two cases.
"There can be no reasonable dispute that permitting (Carroll) to effectively amend her complaint to include" new allegations "would severely prejudice (Trump's) rights," Habba wrote.
Attorneys on both sides summarized their arguments during a remote, call-in hearing with the judge on Tuesday.
Kaplan said the attorneys have completed most pre-trial exchanges of evidence. She argued for consolidating the existing case with the one to be filed on Thursday.
Habba argued against any action on a case that has not yet been filed, and said the new action would require both sides to gather additional evidence. She also said Trump had not retained her for the new case, and added: "I don't know if I will be retained."
Judge Kaplan said he would not issue an immediate ruling because the new case "is not before me." He said he would communicate with the lawyers early next week.
Trump was questioned under oath in the defamation lawsuit in October after his attorneys had tried to block or delay the deposition.
In a statement at that time, Habba said the session enabled the former president to "set the record straight."
"This case is nothing more than a political ploy like many others" against Trump, she added.
Carroll's account alleges that Trump - whom she had met before, while he said they had not, despite photos showing otherwise - forced himself on her in a dressing room in the Bergdorf Goodman's department store. She said the attack occurred during the 1990s after Trump asked her to try on lingerie that he considered buying as a gift.
The new lawsuit alleges Carroll confided in two friends shortly after the attack.
Instead of speaking out, Carroll, who from 1993 to 2019 was an advice columnist for Elle magazine, stayed silent. She "concluded that if she accused Donald Trump of rape he would bury her in threats and lawsuits, and she would probably lose her reputation, not to mention everything she had worked for and achieved," the new suit says.
Several women accused Trump of sexual assault or misconduct during his 2016 presidential campaign. After Trump denied those claims, Carroll wrote about her alleged assault in 2019, saying she wanted "to tell her own story on her own terms," the new lawsuit states.
Contributing: Bart Jansen, Martina Stewart
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Donald Trump faces second lawsuit from E. Jean Carroll