Former U.S. President Donald Trump gestures to his supporters, as he departs for his second civil trial after E. Jean Carroll accused Trump of raping her decades ago, outside a Trump Tower in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., January 26, 2024.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump gestures to his supporters, as he departs for his second civil trial after E. Jean Carroll accused Trump of raping her decades ago, outside a Trump Tower in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., January 26, 2024. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

Trump ordered to pay $83.3M, far exceeding Carroll's $10M claim

Donald Trump was handed a stinging defeat by a Manhattan jury that ordered him to pay $83.3 million to the writer E. Jean Carroll, who said he destroyed her reputation as a trustworthy journalist

By Jonathan Stempel and Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Donald Trump was handed a stinging defeat on Friday by a Manhattan jury that ordered him to pay $83.3 million to the writer E. Jean Carroll, who said he destroyed her reputation as a trustworthy journalist by denying he raped her.

Jurors needed less than three hours to reach a verdict in Manhattan federal court following a five-day trial. The sum that the former U.S. president was ordered to pay far exceeded the minimum $10 million Carroll had sought. Trump plans to appeal.

Carroll's case has become an issue in Trump's campaign to retake the White House in the November U.S. election. Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden, who beat him in 2020.

Trump attended most of the trial, but was not in the courtroom for the verdict.

"Our Legal System is out of control, and being used as a Political Weapon," Trump posted on social media. "THIS IS NOT AMERICA!"

Carroll, 80, left the courthouse with her arms around two of her lawyers.

"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," Carroll said in a statement.

The former Elle magazine advice columnist sued Trump in November 2019 over his denials five months earlier that he had raped her in the mid-1990s in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in Manhattan.

Carroll testified that Trump's denials "shattered" her reputation as a respected journalist who told the truth.

The jury of seven men and two women, whose members were kept anonymous, awarded Carroll $18.3 million in compensatory damages, including $11 million for harm to her reputation. Carroll also was awarded $65 million in punitive damages, which she said was needed to stop Trump from continuing to defame her.

Trump, 77, maintained that he had never heard of Carroll, and that she made up her story to boost sales of her memoir.

His lawyers said Carroll was hungry for fame and enjoyed the attention from supporters for speaking out against her nemesis.

In May 2023, another jury ordered Trump to pay Carroll $5 million over a similar October 2022 denial, finding that he had defamed and sexually abused Carroll.

Trump is appealing that decision, and set aside $5.55 million with the Manhattan court during that process. Both appeals could take years.

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who oversaw both trials, said the earlier verdict applied to the second trial, including that Trump had forced his fingers into Carroll's vagina. All jurors needed to decide was how much Trump should pay.

'IT WILL NOT DETER US'

Alina Habba, who led Trump's defense in Carroll's case, cast Friday's verdict in political terms, and predicted Trump's appeal will succeed.

"President Trump is leading in the polls, and now we see what you get in New York," Habba told reporters. "It will not deter us, we will keep fighting, and I assure you we didn't win today, but we will win."

Trump on Friday stalked out of the courtroom during the closing argument of Carroll's lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, who is not related to the judge, but returned for Habba's closing argument.

He has used his legal travails to portray himself as the victim of politically motivated lies and a biased, out-of-control judicial system.

Trump has separately pleaded not guilty to 91 felony counts in four criminal indictments, including two cases accusing him of trying to illegally overturn his 2020 election loss. He is also awaiting a decision, perhaps this month, from a New York judge on how much he should be penalized in state Attorney General Letitia James' $370 million civil fraud lawsuit against him and his namesake Trump Organization.

During the Carroll trial, Trump was heard muttering that the case was a "con job" and "witch hunt" and that he still did not know who Carroll was, prompting the judge to twice admonish him to keep quiet.

CLOSING ARGUMENTS

Carroll's lawyer Kaplan said during her closing argument that Trump acted toward her client as though he were not bound by the law, and that he should pay "dearly."

Habba countered that it was the publication of excerpts from Carroll's memoir in New York magazine that triggered the attacks, not Trump's denials that began five hours later. Habba also argued that Carroll enjoyed her newfound fame, and that coming forward left her "happier than ever."

Trump testified on Thursday, but spent only four minutes on the witness stand because the judge forbade him from revisiting issues that the first trial had settled. He stood behind his October 2022 deposition testimony, which jurors had seen, in which he called Carroll's claims a "hoax" and said she was "mentally sick."

Carroll wrote the "Ask E. Jean" column for Elle from 1993 to 2019, and often appeared on such programs as NBC's "Today" and ABC's "Good Morning America." She said those appearances dried up because of Trump.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Will Dunham)

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