A woman who accused Donald Trump of molesting her on an airplane during a flight in the late 1970s testified Tuesday May 2, in support of the writer E. Jean Carroll, who alleges that a flirtatious 1996 encounter with the future U.S. president ended in a violent sexual attack.
Jessica Leeds, 81, of Asheville, N.C., said Trump accosted her with what seemed like “40 zillion hands.” She joined other witnesses who supported the testimony of Carroll, a longtime advice columnist who publicly aired her claims against Trump in 2019, when she published her memoir. Trump has repeatedly denied the claims, saying Carroll lied to sell books and disparage him.
The witnesses were meant to support Carroll’s testimony that Trump raped her in the dressing room of a luxury department store in midtown Manhattan. Carroll’s testimony lasted over three days and ended Monday.
Lisa Birnbach, Carroll’s friend, testified that an emotional and hyperventilating Carroll telephoned her minutes after her encounter with Trump to report what occurred. Birnbach said that she told Carroll that Carroll had been raped and urged her to go to the police, but she refused, leading them to argue before Birnbach agreed never to speak of it again.
Leeds said she was in her late 30s and working in sales when she was invited by a flight attendant aboard a daytime flight from Dallas or Atlanta to New York to sit in the only empty aisle seat in the first-class cabin.
“The gentleman sitting by the window introduced himself as Donald Trump,” she said.
Conversation between the pair was mostly forgettable, Leeds recalled, as they ate a nice meal, before “all of a sudden Trump decided to kiss me and grope me.”
“There was no conversation. It was like out of the blue. It was like a tussle,” she recalled. “He was trying to kiss me, trying to pull me towards him. He was grabbing my breasts. It was like he had 40 zillion hands. It was like a tussling match between the two of us.”
Leeds said the standoff ended when she realized no aircraft employees were coming to the rescue and Trump seemed to get more aggressive.
“It was when he started putting his hand up my skirt that gave me strength. I managed to wriggle out of my seat and storm back to my seat in coach. I don’t think there was a word or a sound made by either one of us,” she recalled.
Asked to describe how long the encounter took, Leeds said, “it seemed like forever, but it probably was just a few seconds.”
When the plane landed, Leeds recalled, she remained on board until everyone else had left to avoid running into Trump again.