Donald Trump wants a mistrial in his E. Jean Carroll case.
Carroll said she deleted emails with death threats after Trump defamed her.
Trump's lawyers say that should be considered deleting important evidence.
Former President Donald Trump's legal team asked for E. Jean Carroll's ongoing defamation trial against him to be tossed, arguing that the former Elle columnist spoiled evidence by deleting emails she received that included death threats.
In a Friday letter to US District Judge Lewis Kaplan, Trump's attorney Alina Habba asked for a mistrial because of what she described as Carroll's failure to preserve evidence relevant to the case.
"Plaintiff admitted that she deleted multiple email messages pertaining to purported death threats made to her," Habba wrote.
If Kaplan decided not to cancel the rest of the trial — which is expected to conclude by the middle of next week — he should at least tell the jury not to award her any damages related to the death threats or tell the jury that she did something wrong, Habba said.
"Despite being served with a subpoena in connection with this action, Plaintiff failed to take reasonable steps to preserve relevant evidence," Habba wrote. "In fact, she did much worse — she actively deleted evidence which she now attempts to rely on in establishing her damages claim."
While cross-examining Carroll in a downtown Manhattan federal courtroom Wednesday, Habba asked her about insulting and threatening messages she received from Trump supporters in 2019, after she went public with her accusations that Trump raped her in the 1990s.
Carroll testified that she received death threats "daily" and deleted them from her inbox and from replies to her social media posts.
"I generally got rid of many of the replies on Twitter and on Facebook. I would just delete, delete, delete," Carroll said on the witness stand. "I did not delete my post, but I deleted the replies. I hadn't realized how many death threats there were in my private messages."
With Trump sitting at the table next to her, Habba asked for a mistrial.
"The witness has just admitted to deleting evidence herself, which are part of her claim of damages, and I haven't seen them," Habba said. "She has no evidence of them. She hasn't turned them over."
"Denied," Kaplan quickly responded. "The jury will disregard everything Ms. Habba just said."
Carroll already won a trial against Trump last year in a separate lawsuit. The jury, sitting in the same courtroom as the one in the current lawsuit, awarded Carroll $5 million, agreeing Trump sexually abused her in the 1990s and defamed her by calling her a liar.
The second trial focuses on two statements Trump in the immediate aftermath of a New York magazine article where Carroll recounted the assault, which took place in Manhattan's Bergdorf Goodman department store. Because Trump was already found liable for defamation in the first trial, the jury in the second trial must determine only damages.
Carroll has said that Trump's statements damaged her reputation as a journalist and truth-telling advice columnist. In the trial so far, Trump's legal team has sought to limit the damages the jury might impose, suggesting that pro-Trump people would be disinclined to believe her anyway and that Trump shouldn't be held responsible for their actions.
"Due to Plaintiff's deletion of pertinent evidence, a causal link cannot be established between the death threats and President Trump's denial," Habba argued in her Friday letter.
Despite being found liable for sexually abusing and defaming Carroll last year, Trump has continued to attack her. Even as the trial began, his social media account continued to call her a liar and insulted her appearance.
Carroll's legal team has asked for astronomical punitive damages in addition to any money that would compensate her for Trump's defamatory statements. A large dollar figure, they argued in their opening statement, is the only thing that would "make him stop."
The judge has yet to rule on Habba's mistrial request.
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