• Washington Post

Jury Orders Trump to Pay E. Jean Carroll More than $83 Million for Defaming Her

REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid
E. Jean Carroll and her attorneys Shawn Crowley and Roberta Kaplan react outside the Manhattan Federal Court, after the verdict in the second civil trial was reached after she accused former U.S. President Donald Trump of raping her decades ago, in New York City, U.S., January 26, 2024.

NEW YORK – A civil jury on Friday ordered Donald Trump to pay the writer E. Jean Carroll more than $83 million for defaming her, a hefty financial penalty that doubled as a remarkable denunciation of his rhetoric.

The federal court jury’s verdict delivered a stinging courtroom loss to the former president as he closes in on another Republican presidential nomination. At the same time, it illustrated the degree to which Trump’s year could be defined as much by courtrooms as the campaign trail.

Trump is facing a tangled web of potential financial and legal jeopardy, including four criminal cases and a civil fraud case that could also end with a monetary penalty.

This case marked the second time in less than a year that jurors have concluded that Trump wronged Carroll and owed her recompense. She accused him in 2019 of sexually assaulting her two decades earlier, and Trump responded with a string of denials and vituperative attacks on her that continue to this day.

Carroll filed two civil lawsuits as a result, saying Trump’s denials and remarks “shattered my reputation” while prompting a flood of harassing and threatening messages from his supporters.

After one of her lawsuits went to trial last year, a jury found that Trump sexually abused and defamed Carroll and awarded her a combined $5 million in damages. Because of that verdict, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who oversaw both cases, said the separate jury hearing this trial would only have to determine whether Trump owed Carroll additional damages – and if so, how much.

Jurors needed about three hours to say he did – and much more than last year. Most of the $83.3 million in damages on Friday was $65 million in punitive damages, along with $18.3 million in compensatory damages.

Trump, who is appealing the verdict from last year, quickly vowed to do the same with this latest outcome, posting on social media that it was “ridiculous” and saying that the courts were being “used as a Political Weapon.” He has denied wrongdoing in all cases, civil and criminal, and claimed that he is being politically targeted.

After the verdict was announced, Trump attorney Alina Habba directed her criticism at the judge and suggested that Kaplan had restricted her ability to put on a case.

Before the trial got underway, Kaplan wrote that the case would not re-litigate Carroll’s accusations, saying that “the material facts concerning the alleged sexual assault have already been determined, and this trial will not be a ‘do over’ of the previous trial.” He also blocked Trump from offering testimony or evidence “suggesting or implying that he did not sexually assault” Carroll.

After Habba exited the courthouse Friday following the verdict, she said: “Before I walked into court, that judge decided every single defense President Trump had – we were not allowed to raise in front of the jury.” The case, she said, was “a violation of our justice system.”

Carroll did not speak while leaving the courthouse but released a statement later through her attorneys saying that it was “a great victory for every woman who stands up when she’s been knocked down, and a huge defeat for every bully who has tried to keep a woman down.”

Trump has already given the $5 million he was ordered to pay in damages in last year’s Carroll trial to the federal court in New York, where it is being held while his appeal is litigated. While Friday’s verdict is much larger, Trump has often touted his personal wealth, and a Washington Post tally last year found that in a financial filing, he disclosed about $1 billion in earnings.

The damages awarded Friday came as he awaits a decision in an unrelated civil case. Trump and his company face a lawsuit accusing them of years-long financial fraud. New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), who filed that lawsuit, has asked New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron, who is hearing the case without a jury, to hand down a $370 million penalty. Engoron said he hopes to issue his decision by Wednesday.

This trial, meanwhile, began last week when a panel of nine jurors – seven men and two women – were seated to hear the case. Their identities were kept hidden, much like the jurors’ identities were shielded in Carroll’s case last year. Kaplan noted, among other things, the intense scrutiny that members of the jury would receive, Trump’s habit of publicly attacking everyone including judges and jurors, and the possibility that people on the panel could face harassment.

Carroll’s attorneys said that after she accused Trump of assault, his denials only enhanced the trauma she was already enduring. She testified last year that Trump violently attacked her during a chance encounter at Bergdorf Goodman, an upscale Manhattan department store, in the mid-1990s.

At the time she made her accusation public in 2019, Trump was in the White House and “had the biggest microphone on the planet” – which he used to excoriate her, Shawn Crowley, one of Carroll’s attorneys, said during this trial.

Habba, in turn, said that Trump was merely defending himself and that Carroll’s profile grew, rather than took a hit, describing her as “more famous than she has ever been in her life and loved and respected by many, which was her goal.”

Trump continued to pillory Carroll throughout the trial, filling his social media timeline with dozens of attacks. His commentary on the issue crowded out his rhetoric on political issues, even as he still faces a contest against former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, who is challenging him for the Republican nomination.

Trump chose to put appearing in court for this trial ahead of additional campaign stops in New Hampshire, a sign of his political team’s comfort with his lead as well as the importance of the case to him. People close to Trump said that he regretted skipping other optional court dates in the past, and that he came to believe his media coverage and treatment from the legal system were both better when he appeared in person.

While Trump did not testify during last year’s trial or attend the proceedings – staying away even as he threatened to come and “confront” Carroll – he attended this trial on multiple days, including when Carroll testified last week. Kaplan threatened to eject Trump from the courtroom at one point if he did not remain quiet during her testimony.

This week, a visibly angry Trump took the stand and testified for just a few minutes before leaving the courtroom, muttering “This is not America” multiple times.

Kaplan had repeatedly warned Habba that Trump could address only a limited number of topics on the stand. And while lawyers discussed the boundaries of his testimony, Trump sat at the defense table and audibly muttered that he had “never met” Carroll. Kaplan scolded the former president to keep his voice down.

On Friday, another attorney for Carroll, Roberta Kaplan – who is not related to the judge – said her client sought relief from Trump’s ongoing attacks. He has continued to denounce Carroll, including in a televised appearance last year shortly after the verdict in her other case.

“While Donald Trump doesn’t care about the law, he certainly does not care about the truth, he does care about money,” Kaplan said during her closing remarks.

While she was speaking, Trump stood up and left the courtroom. He returned later for Habba’s closing remarks.

His attorney said Trump’s motive was not to ruin Carroll’s career but to defend himself from what he maintains is a false accusation. And Habba argued that Carroll is seeking attention and that she “loves her new reputation and her life.”

Jurors began deliberating about 1:40 p.m. and returned with a verdict about three hours later. Trump was not in the courtroom to hear it.