Donald Trump’s legal woes have continued to mount since he left office in January 2021, and the latest development in a 2017 defamation lawsuit brought by former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos could end up having major ramifications for the former POTUS. In 2016, Zervos first came forward alleging that Trump had assaulted her in 2007, kissing and groping her without consent, after which the then-presidential candidate blasted her statements as lies, and Zervos sued him for defamation. As president, Trump had blocked Zervos’ lawsuit, arguing that his post protected him from facing legal action, but that defense ran out in 2021, and his legal team’s latest motion to block the case has now been dismissed. As the case goes forward, Trump may be compelled to answer questions under oath in court — a possibility that could finally reveal the truth about Zervos’ alleged 2007 assault and, depending on what’s asked, many cases beyond it.
Trump’s legal team’s first attempt to block the lawsuit from moving forward was denied by two different courts by the time Trump’s presidential term ended, and his team was in the midst of their third appeal to the State Court of Appeals when the circumstances of their defense ceased to exist.
“As it was pending here, he left office, so the issue disappeared,” Gary Spencer, a spokesman for the court, told the New York Times.
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Beth Wilkinson, Summer Zervos’ lawyer, also gave the Times a statement on the importance of moving forward with this case in a timely manner: “Now as a private citizen, the defendant has no further excuse to delay justice from Ms. Zervos and we are eager to get back to the trial court and prove her claims.”
In an initial 2016 statement given by Zervos, she reports that Trump began kissing her at the Beverly Hills Hotel when she’d expected to be joining him for dinner. She says he told her to sit next to him after she pulled away when he began kissing her.
“I complied,” Ms. Zervos said in the statement, per the New York Times. “He then grabbed my shoulder and began kissing me again very aggressively and placed his hand on my breast. I pulled back and walked to another part of the room.”
Another lawyer experienced in sexual misconduct cases, Kevin Mintzer, notes that Zervos’ allegations exist in a specific context: the myriad other allegations with similar details, from women like Amy Dorris, E. Jean Carroll, Jill Harth, Alva Johnson, Kristin Anderson, Jessica Leeds, and so many more.
“There are many other similar allegations made against former President Trump and his responses to them would appropriately be the subject of questioning,” Mintzer told the Times. “I would expect he’s going to have to answer those questions.”
Former Elle columnist E. Jean Carroll has waged a similar defamation lawsuit against Trump after he denied her claims of sexual assault, and at this point it may be a race to see which case could compel Trump to appear under oath first. For Carroll, Zervos, and other Trump accusers, that day would be a long time coming.
Trump’s lawyer Marc Kasowitz did not respond to SheKnows’ requests for comment.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, harassment or violence, you can get help. To speak with someone who is trained to help with these situations, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org.
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