NEW YORK -- A woman testified Tuesday that Donald Trump molested her with what seemed like "40 zillion hands" on an airline flight in the late 1970s -- years before writer E. Jean Carroll says the former president sexually assaulted her at a Manhattan department store.
Meanwhile, Trump's lawyer said the former president has decided against testifying, answering the biggest outstanding question about the closely watched case. Trump has given sworn deposition testimony, and excerpts could be played for the jury.
Jessica Leeds, 81, of Asheville, N.C., told jurors at a civil trial arising from Carroll's lawsuit that Trump grabbed her chest and ran his hand up her skirt as they sat side by side in first class on a New York City-bound jet. After a few seconds, she said, she wriggled free, told him "I don't need this" and stormed to the back of the plane.
"There was no conversation. It was like out of the blue. It was like a tussle," Leeds testified. "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."
Trump, a Republican, has repeatedly denied the women's claims.
Carroll, a former magazine advice columnist, testified over three days ending Monday that Trump raped her in the dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman, a luxury department store.
Lisa Birnbach, a longtime friend of Carroll, testified that an emotional and hyperventilating Carroll called her minutes after her encounter with Trump to report what occurred. She said she told Carroll that her friend was raped and urged her to go to the police, but Carroll refused, leading them to argue before Birnbach agreed never to speak of it again.
Leeds said she was in her late 30s, working in sales and sitting in coach aboard a Braniff Airways flight from Dallas or Atlanta to New York's LaGuardia Airport, likely 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, then a real estate developer, introduced himself, Leeds said, but she didn't know who he was at the time.
Leeds said she sat with Trump for several hours and ate a nice, first-class meal, but that 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 as Trump seemed to get more aggressive, pressing his weight into her, jostling her seat and pinning her in it. She said the encounter, "seemed like forever."
After landing in New York, Leeds said she stayed on the plane until everyone else had left to avoid running into Trump again. She said she kept the incident to herself.
She did not report it to the airline, the police or her boss because, she said, it was an era when "women didn't complain about things in the workplace."
The Associated Press typically does not name people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Carroll and Leeds have done.