President Donald Trump has been ordered to pay a substantial $83.3 million to author and advice columnist, E. Jean Carroll, following a resolution of a defamation lawsuit on Friday. The judgement was reached swiftly after less than three hours of deliberation by a nine-member jury; the civil platform made up of seven men and two women. Awards of $18.3 million in compensatory damages and an additional $65 million in punitive damages have been apportioned, based on continued defamation assertions tied to two instances in June 2019.
Throughout the two full days of trial testimony under the Manhattan federal court’s auspices, an emotional Carroll, who is 80 years old, expounded upon the detrimental effects she had suffered due to Trump’s caustic words. According to her account, the barrage of adverse comments provoked a relentless wave of abuse and threats against her safety; these rattled her peace of mind significantly.
The total settlement sum of $83.3 million is accrued further by an earlier $5 million that Trump owes Carroll, secured by another lawsuit triumph against the former President in May 2022. The previous lawsuit arose from allegations that Trump sexually assaulted Carroll in a deserted area at Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Ave., New York, circa 1996. The defamation aspect of this lawsuit pertained to Trump’s subsequent public dismissal of Carroll as being ‘a complete con job’ on his social media platform, Truth Social, post his tenure as President, around October 2022.
The defamation lawsuit resolved last Friday primarily dealt with allegations related to statements made by Trump about Carroll during his presidency. Among the contested phrases was his dismissal of Carroll as a ‘liar’ and someone who was ‘not my type.’ This court proceeding had a more extensive timeline due to Trump’s counter-argument that his presidential stature absolved him from legal suits related to remarks uttered during his presidency.
This enduring legal unfolding happening over several years has attracted attention from top legal minds attempting to address this question of presidential immunity. The case spanned local and federal courts in various locations, from Manhattan to D.C., with Judge Kaplan eventually taking the helm.
In October 2020, Judge Kaplan discarded a move by the government to replace Trump as a defendant, which would have potentially thwarted Carroll’s case due to the provided immunity. Kaplan affirmed that a President’s official duties do not encompass maligning an alleged rape victim to be untruthful. He asserted Trump could be held accountable for his comments, irrespective of his administrative capacity when the comments were initially made.
Even while Trump tried to contest this verdict, the government ultimately halted its backfilling efforts to stand in for Trump, especially after his liability in the first trial was established. Carroll managed to hold her own against Trump, persisting with the subsequent lawsuit filed just after Thanksgiving in 2022.
The case, filed under the provisions of New York’s Adult Survivor’s Act, was one of the first to utilize the Act’s temporary dismissal of the statute of limitations to pursue sex crimes allegations. This opened an opportunity for Carroll to seek redressal for the assault that allegedly occurred decades earlier.
The first case’s jury deliberated for three hours, ultimately siding with Carroll’s legal representatives that the former President had both sexually assaulted and defamed her on his post-presidential social media platform. However, the jury was not wholly convinced of the rape charges based on the presentation of evidence.
When Carroll continued asserting the rape allegations after the ruling, Trump responded with a countersuit for defamation. He persisted in his defamatory assertions, characterizing Carroll as an insane liar. The countersuit was short-lived as Judge Kaplan deemed it invalid soon after.
Judge Kaplan pointed out that public perception failed to distinguish the difference between Carroll’s declarations that Trump sexually assaulted and raped her. Labeling both assertions as ‘felonious sex crimes,’ he determined that Trump was culpable for defamation, as remarks in both cases exhibited considerable similarity.
Trump’s legal representation for the first trial, Attorney Joe Tacopina, abruptly withdrew from his services when an appeal against the previous verdict was initiated before the commencement of the damages trial. In a statement to MSNBC, Tacopina expressed his personal moral disillusionment necessitated his withdrawal.
Trump’s representation for the second case was undertaken by New Jersey attorney Alina Habba, whose court demeanor was generally deemed as unprofessional by Judge Kaplan. Along with her client’s behavior, which prompted threats of expulsion on the second day after he criticized Carroll’s testimony in the jury’s presence, Habba’s missteps sparked the Judge’s repeated ire.
Trump, who remains a significant political figure in the GOP, continued to assail Carroll publicly on Truth Social throughout the trial duration. He repeated his original statements, which had been declared defamatory, and propagated false information about the case.