(NEW YORK) — Nearly five years ago, then-president Donald Trump repeatedly denied allegations that he sexually assaulted columnist E. Jean Carroll in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s.
Last year, a jury determined those denials were false and defamatory.
Friday, a jury of nine New Yorkers will hear closing arguments and begin deliberating how much his defamatory statements should cost the former president — less than 24 hours after Trump took to the witness stand in his own defense.
Following years of litigation and a two-week trial with testimony from both Carroll and Trump, the damages determined by the jury could be another costly expense for the former president ahead of his four criminal trials and the presidential election.
The facts of the case — that Trump assaulted and defamed Carroll — were established following a jury trial last year. The sole issue left to this jury is how much money, if any, Trump owes Carroll in damages for two defamatory statements he made while president on June 20 and 21, 2019.
“Twenty-five years after sexually assaulting Ms. Carroll, Donald Trump defamed her for speaking up, and then he did it again and again. He keeps doing it even now. It’s time to make him stop,” Carroll’s attorney Shawn Crowley told the jury during her opening statement last week.
Trump, to this day, has vehemently denied the allegation — repeating the defamatory statements over a hundred times during the course of the trial, both in and out of the courtroom, according to Carroll’s lawyers.
“I never met the woman. I do not know who this woman is. I was not at the trial. I don’t know who this woman is,” Trump repeated yesterday while the jury was out of the courtroom. He testified that he stood by his past statements “100%.”
“I just wanted to defend myself, my family and frankly, the presidency,” Trump said yesterday during his brief testimony, in comments that were struck by Judge Lewis Kaplan.
Kaplan, who instructed the jurors to accept as true last year’s finding that Trump sexually abused Carroll and then defamed her, limited Trump’s testimony to answering just three questions. The former president affirmed that he stood by his 2022 deposition in the case; he said he denied Carroll’s accusation to defend himself; and he said he did not instruct anyone to hurt Carroll.
According to Carroll, a longtime advice columnist at Elle Magazine, Trump’s defamatory remarks while president damaged her credibility and reputation as a journalist, limited her career opportunities, and associated her name with Trump’s false statements. After Trump denied her allegations, she said she suffered a torrent of abuse and threats from Trump’s followers.
“I’m here because Donald Trump assaulted me. And when I wrote about it, he said it never happened, he lied, and he shattered my reputation,” Carroll testified.
A reputation expert called by Carroll’s lawyers estimated the cost to repair the “severe” damage caused by Trump’s two statements would be more than $12 million dollars — in addition to the punitive and compensatory damages in the case.
“How much money will it take to make him stop?” Crowley asked during her opening. “He kept up those very same lies even after a federal jury sat in this courtroom and unanimously found that he sexually assaulted her and defamed her.”
Trump’s lawyers countered Carroll’s arguments by suggesting she invited the controversy through her allegations, and that her reputation benefitted from media exposure. They also alleged that Carroll destroyed evidence when she deleted some of the death threats she initially received — an argument Kaplan rejected — and they pointed out that Carroll had already been receiving threats before Trump made his two defamatory statements.
“This is someone who craves fame and seeks fame wherever she can get it,” Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba said. “She got what she wanted.”
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