Trump Ordered to Pay $83.3 Million to E. Jean Carroll in Defamation Trial
Former President Donald J. Trump was ordered by a Manhattan jury on Friday to pay $83.3 million to the writer E. Jean Carroll for defaming her in 2019 after she accused him of a decades-old rape, attacks he continued in social media posts, at news conferences and even in the midst of the trial itself.
Ms. Carroll’s lawyers had argued that a large award was necessary to stop Mr. Trump from continuing to attack her. The nine-member jury responded by awarding Ms. Carroll $65 million in punitive damages, finding that Mr. Trump had acted with malice. On one recent day, he made more than 40 derisive posts about Ms. Carroll on his Truth Social website.
On Friday, the judge, Lewis A. Kaplan, called in the jury shortly after 4:30 p.m., cautioning, “We will have no outbursts.” The verdict was delivered nine minutes to utter silence in the courtroom.
Mr. Trump had already left for the day when the dollar figures were read aloud. Hearing the numbers, his lawyers slumped in their seats. The jury was dismissed, and Ms. Carroll, 80, embraced her lawyers. Minutes later, she walked out of the courthouse arm in arm with her legal team, beaming for the cameras.
“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,” Ms. Carroll said in a statement, thanking her lawyers effusively.
Mr. Trump, who had walked out of the courtroom earlier during the closing argument by Ms. Carroll’s lawyer, said in a Truth Social post that the verdict was “absolutely ridiculous.”
“Our legal system is out of control, and being used as a political weapon,” he said, pledging to appeal. “They have taken away all First Amendment rights.”
Notably, he did not attack Ms. Carroll.
Outside the courthouse, Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, combined complaints about how Judge Kaplan had handled the case with sloganeering, echoing Mr. Trump’s claims that he was being ill-treated by a corrupt system. “We did not win today,” she told reporters, “but we will win.”
Ms. Carroll’s lead lawyer, Roberta A. Kaplan, said the verdict “proves that the law applies to everyone in our country, even the rich, even the famous, even former presidents.”
The verdict vastly eclipsed the $5 million a separate jury awarded Ms. Carroll last spring after finding that Mr. Trump had sexually abused her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room and had defamed her in a Truth Social post in October 2022. The verdict came after Mr. Trump attended nearly every day of the latest trial, and testified, briefly, this week.
Judge Kaplan, who presided over both trials, had ruled that the jury’s findings last May would carry over to the current one, limiting the second jury’s focus solely to damages. Mr. Trump, who is running for president again, was not allowed to stray beyond that issue in his testimony. On Thursday, the judge, out of the jury’s presence, asked Ms. Habba for a preview of that testimony. “I want to know everything he is going to say,” the judge said.
In the end, Mr. Trump, by his actions and words, was his own worst enemy. During the trial, he attacked Ms. Carroll online and insulted her last week at a campaign stop in New Hampshire. Inside the courtroom, the judge warned Mr. Trump that he might be excluded after Ms. Carroll’s lawyers complained that he was muttering “con job” and “witch hunt” loudly enough for jurors to hear.
In their closing arguments on Friday, Ms. Carroll’s lawyers, Ms. Kaplan and Shawn G. Crowley, used Mr. Trump’s presence in court as a weapon against him. Ms. Crowley pointed to the former president’s decision to leave the courtroom abruptly earlier in the day, saying it exemplified his belief that he could get away with anything, including continuing to defame Ms. Carroll.
“You saw how he has behaved through this trial,” Ms. Crowley said. “You heard him. You saw him stand up and walk out of this courtroom while Ms. Kaplan was speaking. Rules don’t apply to Donald Trump.”
There could be more financial damage to come for Mr. Trump. He is still awaiting the outcome of a civil fraud trial brought by New York’s attorney general that concluded this month. The attorney general, Letitia James, has asked a judge to levy a penalty of about $370 million on Mr. Trump.
The former president is also contending with four criminal indictments, at least one of which is expected to go to trial before the November election. His civil cases will soon be behind him, but the greater threat, 91 felony charges, in all, still looms.
The verdict on Friday provided a coda to two weeks of political success for Mr. Trump. He completed an Iowa and New Hampshire sweep in the first two presidential nominating states of 2024 and cemented himself as the likely Republican nominee.
He has used his courtroom appearances as a fundamental element of his campaign, painting himself as a political martyr targeted on all sides by Democratic law enforcement officials, as well as by Ms. Carroll. His loss to her will most likely sting for some time.
During the trial, Ms. Carroll testified that Mr. Trump’s repeated taunts and lashing out had mobilized many of his supporters, leading to an onslaught of attacks on social media and in her email inbox that frightened her and “shattered” her reputation as a well-regarded advice columnist for Elle magazine.
“I was attacked on Twitter,” Ms. Carroll told the jury. “I was attacked on Facebook. I was living in a new universe.”
The trial took about five days over two weeks, and was marked by repeated clashes between Mr. Trump’s lawyers and Judge Kaplan, who is known for his command of the courtroom. The former president’s testimony was highly anticipated for days, but on Thursday, he was on the stand for less than five minutes, and his testimony was notable for how little he ended up saying.
On Friday, Ms. Kaplan, who is not related to the judge, asked the jury in a crisp and methodical summation to award her client enough money to help Ms. Carroll repair her reputation and compensate her for the emotional harm Mr. Trump’s attacks had inflicted.
Ms. Kaplan also emphasized that Mr. Trump could afford significant punitive damages, citing a video deposition excerpt played for the jury in which he estimated that his brand alone was worth “maybe $10 billion” and the value of various of his real estate properties was $14 billion.
“Donald Trump is worth billions of dollars,” Ms. Kaplan told the jury.
“The law says you can consider Donald Trump’s wealth as well as his malicious and spiteful continuing conduct in making that assessment,” Ms. Kaplan said, adding, “Now is the time to make him pay for it, and now is the time to make him pay dearly.”
Mr. Trump was not present to hear her. After scoffing, muttering and shaking his head throughout the first few minutes of Ms. Kaplan’s closing argument, Mr. Trump rose from the defense table without saying anything, turned and left the 26th-floor courtroom. Ms. Kaplan continued to address the jury as if the stark breach of decorum had not occurred.
“The record will reflect that Mr. Trump just rose and walked out of the courtroom,” Judge Kaplan said.
He returned about 75 minutes later, when his lawyer, Ms. Habba, began her summation.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers cast Ms. Carroll as a fame-hungry writer who was trying to raise a diminishing profile when she first made her accusation against Mr. Trump in a 2019 book excerpt in New York magazine about an encounter she has said traumatized her for decades.
Ms. Habba, her voice loud and heavy, her tone mocking and sarcastic, argued that Ms. Carroll’s reputation, far from being damaged, had improved as a result of the president’s statements. And she said Ms. Carroll’s lawyers had not proved that the deluge of threats and defamatory statements the writer received were a response to Mr. Trump’s statements.
“No causation,” Ms. Habba thundered, adding, “President Trump has no more control over the thoughts and feelings of social media users than he does the weather.”
Ms. Crowley, in an animated and passionate rebuttal to Ms. Habba, rejected her contention that Mr. Trump’s statements did not prompt the threats Ms. Carroll received. “There couldn’t be clearer proof of causation,” Ms. Crowley said.
The jurors remained attentive during the closing arguments. One watched Ms. Kaplan intently during much of her summation; others alternated between looking at the lawyers, staring at the exhibits on the screens and taking notes.
During the summations, Mr. Trump’s account on his Truth Social website made about 16 posts in 15 minutes mostly attacking Judge Kaplan and Ms. Carroll, with his familiar insults — the kinds of insults that have now become very costly.
Ms. Kaplan said in her closing argument that the only thing that could make Mr. Trump stop his attacks would be to make it too expensive for him to continue.
The jury, in its verdict, appears to have agreed.
Olivia Bensimon, Anusha Bayya, Maggie Haberman, Shane Goldmacher and Michael Gold contributed reporting.