NEW YORK — Donald Trump must pay $ $83.3 million to writer E. Jean Carroll for defaming her when he was president and to stop him from continuing to ruin her reputation, a jury decided on Friday.
The jury of seven men and two women that heard the longtime advice columnist’s second case against Trump in Manhattan federal court handed down the damages verdict after deliberating for less than three hours. They awarded Carroll $18.3 million in compensatory damages stemming from two June 2019 statements by then-President Trump, which a judge previously ruled were defamatory, and $65 million in punitive damages for continuing to defame her, which he did up until and throughout the short trial.
During two days on the stand, the 80-year-old Carroll emotionally described how Trump’s vitriol destroyed her sense of safety and left her in constant fear for her life while contending with a nonstop deluge of death threats and abuse from his supporters.
The writer testified about sleeping with a loaded gun at her upstate house, where she lives alone, sending her pit bull to patrol the grounds, hiring private security, and constantly checking to see if she’s being followed when she goes outside.
Trump took the stand briefly during the trial on Thursday, going under oath in court for the third time since leaving the White House. In just a few minutes of testimony, during which he wasn’t able to deny defaming or sexually assaulting Carroll, Trump managed to break the rules.
“She said something that I considered to be a false accusation,” he said, later adding, “I just wanted to defend myself, my family and, frankly, the presidency.”
The $83.3 million sum adds to $5 million sitting in escrow that Trump already owes Carroll from the other lawsuit she brought against him in 2022 that he lost at trial in May, when the first jury to consider her allegations found the former president sexually assaulted her on an unoccupied floor at Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue in 1996 and defamed her as “a complete con job” on Truth Social after his presidency in October 2022.
At the trial last year, Carroll, a former daytime TV host who wrote a popular love and sex advice column for Elle magazine, spent days on the stand, describing in devastating detail how Trump violently assaulted her in a changing room after they ran into each other in the luxury department store’s revolving doors and he invited her to pick out underwear for his friend. Trump was married to Marla Maples at the time.
The older defamation lawsuit resolved on Friday primarily concerned things Trump said about Carroll when he was still president — such as she was a liar and “not my type”— and took longer to make it to trial as he argued he couldn’t be sued for things he said as president. The damages verdict caps a dizzying, years-long legal saga that saw some of the top judges in the nation try to resolve that question, beginning briefly in Manhattan’s state courts in late 2019, then bouncing between the local federal courts, the 2nd Circuit, to D.C. and back before Judge Lewis Kaplan.
The Justice Department endorsed Trump’s legal argument under his administration and, controversially, President Joe Biden’s, for the majority of the five years Carroll fought to hold him to account. For years, the government tried to intervene on his behalf, contending that, as president, he was immune from litigation under the Westfall Act and that it wasn’t defending his underlying conduct but federal employees’ right not to be sued.
Kaplan in October 2020 rejected the government’s effort to take Trump’s place as the defendant — which would have ultimately killed Carroll’s suit because of its immunity — finding that disparaging a rape accuser as a liar was not part of a president’s official duties and that Trump could be sued for the comments as an ordinary citizen regardless of his title when he made them.
As Trump appealed that ruling, in the end, the government abandoned its effort to substitute him last summer after he was found liable at the first trial.
Carroll ultimately claimed victory against Trump with her second suit, filed moments after midnight on Thanksgiving 2022, among the first brought under New York’s Adult Survivor’s Act, which temporarily lifted the statute of limitations to bring sex crimes claims and allowed her to sue him for the decades-old assault.
The jury in the first case took three hours to determine that Carroll’s lawyers proved that Trump sexually assaulted her and defamed her on his social media platform post-presidency. They found her legal team didn’t present enough evidence showing he raped her under the definition of New York law. When Carroll continued to say Trump raped her after the verdict, Trump countersued for defamation — also continuing to defame her as a “wack job” who lied about him.
Kaplan soon after threw out Trump’s countersuit, finding the difference between Carroll saying Trump raped her and sexually assaulted her with his fingers was meaningless in the mind of an average listener, writing, “Both are felonious sex crimes,” and later found Trump liable for defamation in Carroll’s original lawsuit because the comments in both were substantially similar.
The lawyer who represented Trump at the first trial, Joe Tacopina, abruptly abandoned Trump in his appeal of the last verdict before the start of the damages trial, telling MSNBC, “I had to follow my compass.” New Jersey attorney Alina Habba represented him this go around, infuriating Kaplan at multiple points for sloppy lawyering — along with her client, whom the judge threatened to expel on the second day for criticizing Carroll’s testimony in front of the jury.
“I would love it,” Trump brazenly told the judge.
The GOP front-runner in the race for the White House has denigrated Carroll on Truth Social dozens of times throughout the trial, repeating all of the statements found to be defamatory and spreading false information about the case.