A woman testified Tuesday that Donald Trump sexually assaulted her with what appeared to be "40 million hands" on an airline flight in the late 1970s, years before writer E. Jean Carroll said the former president he sexually assaulted her on a flight from Manhattan. department store.
Meanwhile, Trump's lawyer said the former president chose not to testify, answering the biggest remaining question about the closely watched case. Trump has given deposition testimony under oath, and excerpts can be played for the jury.
Jessica Leeds, 81, of Asheville, North Carolina, told jurors in a civil trial stemming from Carroll's lawsuit that Trump grabbed her chest and ran his hand up her skirt as they sat next to each other in first class on a plane bound for New York City. . After a few seconds, she said, she broke free of Trump, told him, "I don't need this," and headed to the back of the plane.
“There was no conversation. It was like out of nowhere. It was like a fight," Leeds testified. “He was trying to kiss me, trying to pull me to him. He was grabbing my breasts. It was as if he had 40 trillion hands. It was like a fight between the two of us."
Carroll's lawyers called Leeds to the witness stand in an attempt to show that Trump has a history of assaulting women and that Carroll's claims were part of a pattern, not a single incident. Another woman is expected to testify at trial that she, too, was a victim of Trump.
Trump, a Republican, has repeatedly denied the women's claims. He maintains that the accusations are politically motivated attempts to tarnish his reputation and deny him the White House. He has said that Carroll lied to sell books and that she is not his "type."
Trump used similar language in denying the Leeds allegations, telling supporters at a 2016 rally: "Trust me, she wouldn't be my first choice."
Leeds first went public with her account of the alleged plane hijacking in the final weeks of Trump's 2016 campaign, telling jurors she decided to do so because she was "furious" over Trump's claim in a debate that she had never touched women against their will. .
Carroll, a former magazine advice columnist, publicly aired his accusations against Trump in 2019, when he published a memoir. She testified over three days ending Monday that Trump raped her in the dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman, an upscale department store.
Lisa Birnbach, a longtime friend of Carroll's, testified that an emotional and hyperventilating Carroll called her on the phone minutes after her meeting with Trump to report what had happened. She said that she told Carroll that Carroll had been raped and urged her to go to the police, but Carroll refused, leading them to argue before Birnbach agreed to never speak of it again.
Leeds said she was in her early 30s, working in sales and sitting economy class aboard a Braniff Airways flight from Dallas or Atlanta to New York's LaGuardia Airport, probably in 1979, when a flight attendant invited her to sit in the only empty aisle seat in the first class cabin, next to Trump.
Trump introduced himself, Leeds said, but she did not know who he was at the time. Working then as a real estate developer, Trump had not yet reached the heights of his fame and was still a few years away from opening Trump Tower in Manhattan.
Leeds said he sat with Trump for several hours and ate a good first-class meal, but their conversation was otherwise forgettable. Then, she said, "all of a sudden, Trump decided to kiss me and grope me."
Leeds said she fought back when Trump appeared to become more aggressive, pressing his weight against her, pushing against her seat and pinning her down. No passengers intervened and no employees of the now-defunct airline came to her rescue, she said.
“It was when he started putting his hand up my skirt that gave me strength. I managed to wriggle out of my seat and back to my seat on the bus. I don't think there was a word or a sound made by any of us," Leeds recalled. She said the encounter "seemed like an eternity, but it was probably only a few seconds."
After landing in New York, Leeds said he stayed on the plane until everyone else left to avoid running into Trump again. She said that she kept the incident to herself, regarding it as one of the "rigors of the trip."
She didn't report it to the airline, the police or her boss because, she said, it was a time when "women didn't complain about things in the workplace."
A few years later, Leeds said he saw Trump at a gala in Manhattan with his first wife, Ivana, who was pregnant. But Leeds said nothing. Instead, she told the jury that it was Trump who intervened. She recalled that he used a rude word when he recognized her as the woman "from the plane."
The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Carroll and Leeds have done.