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In three high-profile cases, courts side with female survivors

E. Jean Carroll, Megan Thee Stallion and Evan Rachel Wood’s cases advanced in their favor this week

From left to right: Megan Thee Stallion, E. Jean Carroll and Evan Rachel Wood (Washington Post illustration; Emma McIntyre/Getty; Seth Wenig, Angela Weiss/AP)
5 min

Courts overseeing three of the most high-profile abuse cases in recent years — involving a rapper, a shock rocker and a former president — reached judgments Tuesday that favored the victims, ending for some years of agony and scrutiny as their cases played out in the courtroom and in public.

On Tuesday afternoon, a Manhattan civil jury found that Donald Trump sexually abused and defamed writer E. Jean Carroll, ordering him to pay her $5 million in damages. Carroll had accused the former president of raping her during a chance encounter at an upscale Manhattan department store in the mid-1990s.

Jury in civil trial finds Trump sexually abused, defamed E. Jean Carroll

Carroll, a former magazine columnist, first publicly accused Trump of rape in her 2019 memoir, published during Trump’s third year in office. Trump responded by telling reporters that Carroll had made up the attack, and he called her a liar. This prompted her to sue him for battery and defamation in 2022.

“I’m here because Donald Trump raped me, and when I wrote about it, he said it didn’t happen,” Carroll said on the stand last month. “He lied and shattered my reputation, and I’m here to try to get my life back.”

Though the careers of some powerful men have been derailed in the wake of sexual assault allegations, Trump until now had eluded any legal consequences: At least 17 women have accused Trump of sexual assault and misconduct. Two of his accusers told The Washington Post they felt vindicated by the jury’s decision.

“Finally,” Amy Dorris, who has accused Trump of forcibly kissing and groping her at the 1997 U.S. Open tennis tournament, said Tuesday. “He’s officially an actual predator.”

A Manhattan jury on May 9 found that former president Donald Trump sexually abused and defamed E. Jean Carroll and awarded her $5 million in damages. (Video: HyoJung Kim/The Washington Post, Photo: AP/The Washington Post)

Trump faces no jail time as a result, however, since it was a civil trial and not a criminal one. The jury, made up of six men and three women, deliberated for less than three hours.

On the same day, a Los Angeles judge denied a request by rapper Tory Lanez for a new trial. Lanez, whose legal name is Daystar Peterson, was found guilty in December of shooting Megan Thee Stallion, in a case that sparked division and conspiracy theories across social media.

Lanez’s legal team filed the motion in March, moving to disqualify Superior Court Judge David Herriford, who presided over the December trial, from the case. Attorneys for Lanez said the judge had “erroneously allowed” a post from Lanez’s Instagram account into evidence, accused Megan of giving untrue testimony and said DNA evidence linking Lanez to the shooting did not meet industry standards.

The shooting and the trial were highly publicized, with a number of prominent personalities in the hip-hop world opining on what happened between Lanez and Megan, whose legal name is Megan Pete. Several, including Drake and 50 Cent, suggested that Megan, a popular artist and frequent musical collaborator, lied about the 2020 shooting, which took place in an SUV after a night of partying.

Others claimed that the hip-hop star had injured herself stepping on broken glass. (Lanez’s legal team never denied that Megan was shot, but alleged there wasn’t enough evidence to prove Lanez did it).

Megan, talking on the stand about the derision she faced after the shooing, told jurors: “I wish he would have just shot and killed me if I knew I was going to have to go through this torture.” Her treatment inspired discourse across media, hip-hop and feminist circles about the way Black female survivors are treated by the legal system, the media and the male-dominated world of rap music.

The history of anti-Black misogyny shaping coverage of Megan Thee Stallion

During the hearing earlier this week, Lanez, 30, pleaded for Herriford’s help, according to the Associated Press: “I could be your son,” he told the judge. “I could be your brother.”

Herriford rejected those arguments. Lanez will now be sentenced for three convictions stemming from the shooting, including assault with a semiautomatic firearm and having an unregistered firearm in a vehicle. He faces up to 22 years in prison and deportation to his native Canada. Lanez’s attorneys plan to appeal the verdict to a higher court.

Meanwhile, Marilyn Manson’s defamation case against his former partner, actress Evan Rachel Wood, was dealt a major blow by a California superior court judge.

A judge dismissed the shock rocker’s claims that Wood and her friend Illma Gore had conspired to portray Manson (born Brian Warner) as a serial abuser. Among Manson’s claims were that the pair “recruited” other women to come forward with sexual assault allegations against him.

The tentative ruling from Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Teresa Beaudet guts the core of Manson’s defamation case against Wood, who has publicly accused Manson of “horrifically” abusing and “grooming” her during their relationship, which began when Wood was still a teenager.

These allegations were expanded upon in a two-part documentary, “Phoenix Rising,” which played at Sundance and aired on HBO in 2022. In the film, Wood shared graphic details, saying that Manson used to flog her with a Nazi whip, then shock her wounds using an electric sex toy. Wood also said that she would wake up to Manson having sex with her, believing her to be unconscious.

“I felt my brain change. I felt it almost calcify. And the world is never the same,” Wood said about the trauma she described.

Before the film premiered, Manson filed a defamation lawsuit against his former fiancee, in a move reminiscent of Johnny Depp’s defamation case against Amber Heard. (Depp lost his case in the United Kingdom, but won in the United States last year.)

More than a dozen other women have accused the singer of physical, sexual and psychological abuse. Several have settled with Manson out of court or recanted their stories.

(Wood spoke publicly about abuse at the hands of an ex before Congress in 2018, though she didn’t name Manson at the time.)

Manson’s defamation suit, although weakened, will still proceed. Manson attorney Howard King told reporters that they plan to appeal the ruling.