A jury rendered a substantial verdict of $83.3 million to E. Jean Carroll on Friday, serving as a resounding rebuke to former President Donald Trump for his persistent attacks against the veteran advice columnist on social media, stemming from her allegations of sexual assault against him in a Manhattan store.
This latest award, combined with a prior $5 million verdict for sexual assault and defamation last year from a separate jury in Carroll’s case, brings the total amount Trump owes her to $88.3 million. Trump, vehemently protesting the decision, declared his intention to appeal.
The 80-year-old Carroll, visibly moved, held her lawyers’ hands tightly and smiled upon hearing the verdict delivered by the anonymous jury comprised of seven men and two women. Following the decision, she shared an emotional embrace with her legal team.
While Carroll declined to comment upon leaving the Manhattan federal courthouse, she later released a statement through her publicist, celebrating the victory as not just her own but as a triumph for all women who refuse to be silenced in the face of adversity: “This is a great victory for every woman who stands up when she’s been knocked down, and a huge defeat for every bully who has tried to keep a woman down.”
Trump had attended the trial earlier in the day but stormed out during the closing arguments made by Carroll’s attorney. He returned for his attorney’s closing argument and part of the deliberations but departed the courthouse half an hour before the verdict was announced. Expressing his outrage shortly after the decision, he criticized the legal system, branding it as “out of control” and manipulated for political ends.
His lawyer, Alina Habba, attributed the verdict to strategic forum-shopping by Trump’s adversaries, stating, “It will not deter us. We will keep fighting. And, I assure you, we didn’t win today, but we will win.”
The trial’s conclusion coincides with Trump’s continued pursuit of the Republican presidential nomination for the third consecutive time. Throughout, he has sought to portray his legal battles and vulnerabilities as evidence of a biased political system, resonating with his steadfast supporters.
Despite Trump’s efforts to deflect attention from the verdict, his former rival in the Republican primaries, Nikki Haley, highlighted the financial implications of the decision, diverting focus from pressing national issues.
With the civil case brought by Carroll concluded, Trump still faces 91 criminal charges across four indictments, including allegations of attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election, mishandling classified documents, and orchestrating hush payments to a porn star.
This marks the second time in less than a year that a civil jury has ruled on Carroll’s allegations stemming from a 1996 encounter with Trump at a Manhattan department store. In May, a jury awarded Carroll $5 million, finding Trump liable for sexual abuse and defamation, albeit not for rape. Trump is appealing that decision as well.
Trump’s legal challenges extend beyond the Carroll case; he awaits a verdict in a New York civil fraud trial, where state prosecutors seek the return of $370 million in alleged ill-gotten gains.
Regarding Trump’s financial capacity to meet the mounting legal obligations, he has claimed assets of approximately $294 million in cash or equivalents, as reported in his most recent financial statement.
Trump’s absence from the initial Carroll trial was followed by his insistence on testifying in the second trial, although the judge limited his testimony, citing missed opportunities to contest Carroll’s allegations. During his brief appearance on the witness stand, Trump denied assaulting Carroll, subsequently lamenting the proceedings, asserting, “this is not America.”
In this recent trial, the jury was tasked solely with determining the damages owed by Trump for two statements he made as president regarding Carroll’s allegations. They were not asked to reevaluate the veracity of the assault claim itself.
In her closing argument, Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, sought substantial compensatory and punitive damages, urging the jury to penalize Trump sufficiently to deter future defamation. The jury awarded $18.3 million in compensatory damages and an additional $65 million in punitive damages, aimed at curbing Trump’s disparaging behavior.
Kaplan highlighted Trump’s vast wealth and the need to hold him accountable for his actions, emphasizing the significance of punitive damages in restoring Carroll’s reputation and protecting her from ongoing harassment.
Trump, visibly agitated during Kaplan’s address, abruptly left the courtroom, prompting a rebuke from the judge. Throughout the trial, Trump tested the judge’s patience, leading to warnings of expulsion for disruptive behavior.
Carroll testified to the detrimental impact of Trump’s statements on her life, citing death threats and the need for increased security measures. She emphasized her quest to restore her reputation tarnished by Trump’s allegations.
In contrast, Trump’s lawyer argued that Carroll had profited from her accusations and achieved the fame she desired, suggesting no damages were warranted.
Ultimately, the jury’s verdict stands as a significant legal blow to Trump, underscoring the consequences of his actions and the importance of accountability in matters of defamation and assault.