Published On: Wed, Jan 18th, 2017

Donald Trump faces lawsuit over sexual assault claims

A former contestant on The Apprentice has filed a defamation lawsuit against president-elect Donald Trump for calling allegations that he sexually assaulted her “fiction” and “100% fabricated”.

Summer Zervos, who appeared on season five of Mr Trump’s reality television show, was one of several women who came forward last autumn following the release of a video tape from the Access Hollywood TV show that captured Mr Trump boasting about trying to have sex with married women and grabbing their genitals.

Ms Zervos alleged that Mr Trump had forcibly kissed and grabbed her in a Beverly Hills hotel room and at Trump Tower, his New York headquarters.

Mr Trump did not immediately tweet in response to the lawsuit. Hope Hicks, his director of strategic communications, said: “More of the same from Gloria Allred [the attorney representing Ms Zervos]. There is no truth to this absurd story.”

Last October, however, Mr Trump denied Ms Zervos’s assault allegation. “I never met her at a hotel or greeted her inappropriately a decade ago,” he said at the time, adding that Ms Zervos had continued to contact him for help, and asked him earlier in 2016 to visit her restaurant in California.

Ms Allred, a high-profile attorney, has represented other women who have accused Mr Trump of sexual misconduct. Ms Allred announced the lawsuit, which was filed in a New York state court, during a press conference in Los Angeles, saying Ms Zervos was seeking damages for emotional and economic harm.

The lawsuit alleges that in October Mr Trump made false statements to “denigrate and verbally attack” Ms Zervos, Ms Allred said. She added that her client would drop the suit if Mr Trump retracted his statements and acknowledged the assault allegations were true. If Mr Trump offered such an acknowledgment, she added, they would not sue him for assault.

Questioned about the timing of the lawsuit, just days before Friday’s inauguration. Ms Allred said: “There’s no good time. There’s no bad time. We have waited two months and time is up.” Ms Allred and Ms Zervos plan to attend the women’s march on Washington this Saturday along with other women who have accused Mr Trump of assault.

Mr Trump is still engaged in multiple lawsuits relating to his business. The defamation lawsuit is the latest controversy facing the next president.

Today’s the day. Women are not a footnote to history. They matter. We value them. We value women who allege they have been victims of injustice

If the case proceeds, Mr Trump could be required to testify under oath in a deposition. Two weeks ago Mr Trump sat for 90 minutes of testimony in a case related to a contract dispute involving a restaurant that was set to open at his new Washington DC hotel in the Old Post Office building.

As president, Mr Trump is not immune from litigation relating to personal matters that predate his presidency. That precedent was set in a 1997 Supreme Court case involving a sexual harassment claim by Paula Jones against President Bill Clinton from his time as governor of Arkansas. In a unanimous and historic decision the court found a sitting president could face civil lawsuits.

The case opened a can of worms for President Clinton. He was forced to sit for a deposition and was later accused by a special prosecutor of lying under oath. The discovery phase of litigation unearthed evidence leading Ms Jones’ attorneys to Monica Lewinsky.

Ms Zervos, who sat next to Ms Allred during the press conference, spoke only briefly.

“Today’s the day,” Ms Allred said. “Women are not a footnote to history. They matter. We value them.”

“We value women who allege they have been victims of injustice,” she said.


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