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  • Lauren Albano

Donald Trump continues to challenge $83.3 million E. Jean Carroll verdict

Courtesy of The Hill


Former President Donald Trump was formally ordered to pay $83.3 million to E. Jean Carroll per the jury's verdict in his defamation trial on January 26, 2024. Since the payout was ordered, Trump and his attorneys have been trying to delay and appeal the judgment.


Carroll, a renowned journalist, author, and advice columnist, is one of more than two dozen women to accuse Trump of sexual assault over the last two decades. 


In 2019, Carroll alleged in her memoir “What Do We Need Men For?” that Trump raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in Manhattan in 1996. Carroll said she could not bring criminal charges against him at the time out of fear of receiving death threats and “being dragged through the mud,” according to an excerpt from the memoir published in New York magazine.


The excerpt included a photo of Trump and Carroll together at a party in 1987, but Trump denied the rape allegation. “I’ve never met this person in my life,” claimed the former president. He suggested that Carroll made up the story to increase book sales in addition to calling Carroll a “nut job” and “not his type.”


“She is trying to sell a new book — that should indicate her motivation,” Trump said in his statement. “It should be sold in the fiction section.”


In 2022, Carroll filed a civil suit against Trump for the 2019 rape allegation and defamation. Trump himself was not present at the trial, and his lawyers did not call any witnesses. 


The trial also examined comments made by Trump that year, such as in October 2022 when he posted a statement to Truth Social calling her case “a complete con job” and “a Hoax and a lie.”


The jury delivered a verdict on May 9 ordering Trump to pay Carroll $5 million in damages. The jury rejected Carroll’s claim that she was raped but found Trump liable for a lesser degree of “sexual abuse,” and it declared that Trump had defamed Carroll with the comments he made after her 2019 accusation. 


According to the Associated Press, Carroll issued a statement after the verdict saying she sued Trump to “clear my name and to get my life back. Today, the world finally knows the truth. This victory is not just for me but for every woman who has suffered because she was not believed.”


Carroll’s lawyer Roberta Kaplan wrote in a statement that the verdict proved “not even the president of the United States” is above the law. 


After the ruling was issued, Trump’s lawyer Joseph Tacopina shook hands with Carroll and hugged Kaplan, and he told reporters outside the courthouse that he found it “strange” and “perplexing” that the jury rejected the rape claim while finding Trump responsible for sexual abuse.


“Part of me was obviously very happy that Donald Trump was not branded a rapist,” Tacopina said. He added the trial “would be more of a circus” had Trump been in attendance.


Trump's lawyers motioned for a new trial, arguing that the $5 million verdict was excessive. They said, “‘sexual abuse’ could be as limited as the ‘groping’ of a victim’s breasts,” according to the Washington Post


Judge Lewis A. Kaplan (not related) rejected the motion, calling the lawyers’ argument “entirely unpersuasive.” He added that Carroll’s account of the attack—which included such instances as Trump forcing his mouth on Carroll’s, pulling down her tights, and forcibly penetrating her vagina—went far beyond “groping” breasts and aligned with a more common definition of rape.


The $83.3 million verdict delivered in January was the decision of a second defamation suit Carroll made against Trump addressing comments made about her during his presidency. The Department of Justice initially took the position under the Trump administration, and later under the Biden administration, that Trump was acting “in his official capacity” when he made these statements, according to the New York Times


However, the department later changed its statement following the first verdict declaring that Carroll was sexually assaulted by Trump. It said the fresh facts suggest “that Mr. Trump was motivated by a ‘personal grievance’ stemming from events that occurred many years prior to Mr. Trump’s presidency.”


Carroll testified to the impact of Trump’s defamatory comments on her career and livelihood. In addition to describing safety measures she had taken at home, including installing an electronic fence and purchasing a gun for her bedside table, Carroll said, “Previously, I was known simply as a journalist and had a column, and now I’m known as the liar, the fraud and the whack job.”


Trump was present at this trial, and he was admonished multiple times for speaking audibly from the defense table and exceeding the strict, three-minute testimony he was permitted.


The $83.3 million verdict is made up of $18.3 million in compensatory damages and $65 million in punitive damages. Carroll’s lawyers told the jury during the trial that Trump should face a larger number of damages to get him to actually stop his defamatory behavior. Kaplan added that “billions of dollars is just a drop in the bucket for Trump.”


“Donald Trump is prepared to use his wealth and power to defame people whenever he wants,” Kaplan said. “He ignored the last verdict as if it had never happened.”


Trump walked out of the courtroom during the closing arguments, and the judge noted his action for the record. The former president remained outside until after the break when it was his attorney’s turn to speak, but he left the courthouse once more a half hour before the verdict was read.


“Absolutely ridiculous!” Trump said in a statement shortly afterward. “Our Legal System is out of control, and being used as a Political Weapon.”


Judge Kaplan made the verdict official on February 8, giving Trump 30 days to post a bond or cash as the former president appealed the verdict. Trump sought to delay the enforcement of the verdict 25 days later, but his request was denied.


Trump’s lawyers requested a new trial in the defamation case on March 6, arguing that the compensatory and punitive awards granted to Carroll were “out of proportion and should be reduced,” according to the Guardian.


On March 7, Trump was denied a three-day shield from the verdict payout. He requested the court the day prior to block Carroll’s collection of the money until three business days after the court ruled on an appeal he filed on February 23.


By March 8, Trump posted a $91.6 million bond to cover the money owed to Carroll, plus interest, while he continues to appeal the verdict. Posting the bond was necessary to delay payment until the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals can rule on the legal challenge.


Despite the verdict, Trump reiterated that Carroll’s accusations against him were false at a Georgia campaign rally on March 10.


“I just posted a $91 million bond, $91 million on a fake story, totally made-up story,” Trump said. “Ninety-one million based on false accusations made about me by a woman that I knew nothing about, didn’t know, never heard of, I know nothing about her.”


Trump is predicted to undergo financial struggle given other judgments he is facing, including a $454 million New York civil fraud verdict. Carroll expressed “very serious concerns” on February 29 that she won’t be able to collect the money for a long time, pointing to these additional judgments.


Trump’s appeal is ongoing.


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