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Trump wins at trial, calls woman suing him ‘horrible human being’

Jackie Goldberg (left) sued Donald Trump (right) because she feels she was conned inbuying two hotel condo units downtown Trump

Jackie Goldberg (left) sued Donald Trump (right) because she feels she was conned into buying two hotel condo units in the downtown Trump Tower in 2006. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 25, 2013 6:26AM

If it were a David and Goliath fight, Goliath won — hands down.

Donald Trump triumphed spectacularly Thursday in his federal court battle against an Evanston grandmother who accused him of ripping her off.

After deliberating for five hours at the end of an at times ugly and personal eight-day trial, a federal jury threw out every part of the case in front of them involving 87-year-old Jackie Goldberg’s $6 million claim against the real estate magnate and TV celebrity over her 2006 purchase of two Trump Tower hotel condos.

Trump — and at least one juror — declared it a victory for justice. But winning didn’t soften Trump’s anger at Goldberg, who he previously accused of playing “the age card” against him.

“I think she’s a horrible human being,” Trump said in a phone interview from his New York office shortly after the verdict Thursday. “She should be ashamed of herself.”

Goldberg’s attorney, Shelly Kulwin, had put questions about what he called Trump’s “reprehensible” character at the heart of the case, alleging Trump deliberately misled Goldberg and other hotel condo buyers by promising them a cut of the Trump International Hotel’s ballroom and catering business, only to snatch those profits back for himself once they’d signed deals.

But juror Leopoldo Pinela, 51, a machine operator from Melrose Park, said the jury wasn’t swayed by personalities and was unanimous in backing Trump from early on in its deliberations.

“Goldberg’s lawyer did a good job — but it’s like a soccer game, sometime you lose even when you play well,” Pinela said.

Pinela added that he’d be watching Trump’s NBC show, ‘The Apprentice,’ though he was not previously a fan.

That will likely please Trump, who maintained all along that Goldberg simply got cold feet and wanted out of her condos after the economy tanked in 2008, and said his brand was “totally vindicated” by the verdict. He called Kulwin a “buffoon lawyer” whose arguments boiled down to “Trump should lose because he’s rich.”

A disappointed Goldberg, who won’t get back a cent of the $516,000 deposit she paid Trump for the hotel condos, said she regretted nothing.

“I think I have exposed him for what he is and that people won’t get trapped by him again,” she said. “At least they will know that he’s done this in the past.”

Speaking in a quiet voice, she accused Trump of lying on the stand last week about how happy other hotel condo owners in his iconic skyscraper were.

“I thought he clearly lied,” she said, urging anyone doing business with Trump to “Read the contract, really carefully.”

Asked what she thought of Trump’s withering assessment of her, she replied “I try to ignore it — he says lots of things.”

Kulwin, who collapsed onto a table as Judge Amy St. Eve announced the verdict and looked ashen in the moments that followed, put Goldberg’s loss down to a lack of paperwork surrounding key decisions in the construction and marketing of the Trump Tower.

“Fraud is a very difficult thing to prove,” he said. “Juries, they want documents, direct evidence.”

But Trump’s legal team said Goldberg had tried to pass herself off as a small-time victim when in fact she was a “sophisticated investor” who’d paid more than $11 million in cash for condos over the last two decades.

Trump’s lead attorney, Stephen Novack, said he “surgically...took apart their case, piece by piece by piece.”

“Our opponent tried the entire trial to make this appear like what it was a small person against a wealthy person, a grandmother, an elderly woman against a celebrity and New Yorkers against Chicago,” he said.

“What we can all feel good about as Chicagoans is that this Chicago jury ignored all that.”

Their verdict showed they believed Trump was “a credible witness — they believed his side of the story,” he added.

Juror David Burgert, 36, a transit company clerk from Palos Hills, agreed that Trump did well on the stand.

“He came across as a really smart businessman,” Burgert said. “Everyone would like to be like him at some point in their lives, I think.”

Burgert said Goldberg was a “smart woman,” too, but added “she could have backed out of the deal sooner and got her money back ... basically, she tried to get more money than she could get.”

Thursday’s verdict leaves unresolved an outstanding allegation of contract fraud, an issue which is before the judge, who will rule on it at a later date.

But judges typically follow jurors’ leads in such situations, leaving Goldberg little hope of recovering any money.

“I’m delighted,” Trump said. “Of course I am.”

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