A JURY has found Donald Trump liable for sexually abusing advice columnist E Jean Carroll in 1996, awarding her 5 million dollars (£4 million) in a judgment that could haunt the former president as he campaigns to regain the White House.

Jurors rejected Carroll’s claims that she was raped, but found Trump liable for sexually assaulting her.

The verdict was announced in a federal courtroom in New York City, just a few hours after the jury began deliberating.

Hours earlier, US District Judge Lewis A Kaplan read instructions on the law to the nine-person jury before the panel began discussing Carroll’s allegations of battery and defamation.

Trump, who did not attend the trial, has insisted he never sexually assaulted Carroll or even knew her.

Judge Kaplan told jurors the first question on the verdict form was to decide whether they think there is more than a 50% chance that Trump raped Carroll in a store dressing room. If they answered yes, they would then decide whether compensatory and punitive damages should be awarded.

If they answered no on the rape question, they could then decide if Trump subjected her to lesser forms of assault involving sexual contact without her consent or forcible touching to degrade her or gratify his sexual desire. If they answered yes on either of those questions, they would decide if damages are appropriate.

On defamation claims stemming from a statement Trump made on social media last October, Judge Kaplan said jurors needed to be guided by a higher legal standard — clear and convincing evidence.

He said they would have to agree it was “highly probable” that Trump’s statement was false and was made maliciously with deliberate intent to injure or out of hatred or ill will with reckless disregard for Carroll’s rights.

Meanwhile, Trump posted a new message on social media, complaining that he was awaiting the jury’s decision “on a False Accusation”. He said he was “not allowed to speak or defend myself, even as hard nosed reporters scream questions about this case at me”.

He said he would not speak until after the trial, “but will appeal the Unconstitutional silencing of me … no matter the outcome!”

Trump never attended the trial and rejected an invitation to give evidence, which the judge extended through the weekend even after Trump layer Joe Tacopina said on Thursday that his client would not testify.

Tacopina told the jury in closing arguments on Monday that Carroll’s account was too far-fetched to be believed, claiming she made it up to fuel sales of a 2019 memoir in which she first publicly revealed her allegations and to disparage Trump for political reasons.

Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, cited excerpts from Trump’s October deposition and his notorious comments in a 2005 video in which he said celebrities can grab women between the legs without asking.

She urged jurors to believe her client.

“He didn’t even bother to show up here in person,” Kaplan said, adding that much of what he said in his deposition and in public statements “actually supports our side of the case”.

“In a very real sense, Donald Trump is a witness against himself,” she said. “He knows what he did. He knows that he sexually assaulted E Jean Carroll.”

Carroll, 79, told the court that she had a chance encounter with Trump at the Bergdorf Goodman store across the street from Trump Tower in New York. She said it was a light-hearted interaction in which they teased each other about trying on a piece of lingerie before Trump became violent inside a dressing room.

Tacopina told jurors there was no reason to call Trump as a witness when Carroll could not even recall when her encounter with Trump happened.

He told the jury Carroll made up her claims after hearing about a 2012 episode of TV show Law And Order in which a woman is raped in the dressing room of the lingerie section of a Bergdorf Goodman store.

“They modelled their secret scheme on an episode of one of the most popular shows on television,” he said.

Two of Carroll’s friends said she told them about the encounter with Trump shortly after it happened, many years before the Law And Order episode aired.