Former U.S. President Donald Trump 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.
Eduardo Munoz | Reuters
Jurors at the sex defamation trial of Donald Trump began deliberations Friday after a judge told them Trump “sexually assaulted” writer E. Jean Carroll in the mid-1990s and defamed her in statements he made as president while denying her allegation.
Judge Lewis Kaplan told the nine-member jury in Manhattan federal court that they were to keep those facts in mind as deliberated on Carroll’s request for millions of dollars in damages from Trump for his defamatory statements.
“What remains for you to decide,” Kaplan said, is whether “Mr. Trump acted maliciously when he made his two statements” about Carroll.
“You must accept as true the facts as I explained to you as they have already been decided,” the judge said, referring to Trump’s sexual assault of Carroll, and his slandering of her decades later.
Trump looked on during the instructions with a frown on his face.
Earlier, Trump stalked out of the courtroom after Carroll’s lawyer began her closing argument, in which she urged jurors to award monetary damages “large enough that it will finally make him stop” slandering the writer.
Trump’s dramatic departure came minutes after Kaplan warned his lawyer that she was risking being tossed into jail before summations began in the case.
“The record will reflect that Mr. Trump just rose and walked out of the courtroom,” said Judge Lewis Kaplan.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump walks out during attorney Roberta Kaplan’s closing argument, during E. Jean Carroll’s second civil trial as Carroll accused Trump of raping her decades ago, at Manhattan Federal Court in New York City, U.S., January 26, 2024, in this courtroom sketch.
Jane Rosenberg | Reuters
Trump returned about an hour later after Carroll’s attorney finished her summation, and just before his attorney began her closing argument.
Carroll in a 2019 New York magazine article wrote that in the mid-1990s, Trump had raped her in a dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman department store on Fifth Avenue, just up the street from the Trump Tower, where he lived and worked.
Trump denied her allegation at the time, saying she had made it up.
Another Manhattan federal court jury last year found he had sexually abused Carroll in the attack, and had defamed her in statements he made in late 2022 denying her claims.
Kaplan ruled later in 2023 that that jury’s verdict meant that jurors in the current trial would have to accept as legally established that Trump had sexually assaulted Carroll, and defamed her in his 2022 statements.
E. Jean Carroll arrives at Manhattan federal court in New York as her defamation suit against Donald Trump continues on January 26, 2024 in New York City.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images
Trump on Friday posted several social media messages attacking Kaplan for rulings in the case, accusing the judge of having “absolute hatred of Donald J. Trump (ME!).” Trump’s Truth social account posted 14 times about Carroll when he was in the courtroom.
In her closing argument, Carroll’s lawyer Roberta Kaplan, who is not related to the judge, asked jurors to impose punitive damages on Trump for refusing to stop defaming Carroll even after a jury last year held him liable for doing so and ordered him to pay her $5 million.
Trump’s comments have sparked death threats and vicious emails and tweets directed at Carroll, the lawyer said.
“The dollar amount has to be very large,” Roberta Kaplan said. “It is at least as much and probably much more than the $12 million” that the lawyer noted an expert witness had testified it could cost to repair Carroll’s reputation after Trump accused her of investing her claim.
“Last trial, Donald J. Trump didn’t even bother to show up, but this trial where it is about damages he has been sure to be here and the one thing he cares about his money,” Kaplan said. “He doesn’t care about the law or truth but does care about money and your decision on punitive damages is the only hope that he stops.”
“How much will it take to make him stop? You cost him lots and lots of money,” she said.
Trump “is worth billions of dollars he said that under oath, he could pay a million dollars a day for ten years and still have money in the bank,” Kaplan said. “When you begin deliberations I encourage you to step back and think of bigger picture, a former president of the United States who sexually assaulted, defamed and continues to defame.”
Earlier, Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba, who had already irked Judge Kaplan for showing up late in court, angered him when she persisted in arguing that defense lawyers should be able to show a slide to jurors during their summation that represented some tweets related to Carroll.
“You are not going to use a slide to represent how many tweets there were, you are not using that slide, period,” Judge Kaplan said.
When Habba said, “I need to make a record,” referring to putting her argument on the record, the judge issued his warning.
“You are on the verge of spending time in the lockup, now sit down!,” the judge told Habba.
Kaplan snapped at Habba several more times during her closing argument, at one point telling her that if she continued pressing a particular point “there will be consequences.”
Former U.S. President Donald Trump’s attorney Alina Habba delivers closing arguments during E. Jean Carroll’s second civil trial, as Carroll accused Trump of raping her decades ago, at Manhattan Federal Court in New York City, U.S., January 26, 2024 in this courtroom sketch.
Jane Rosenberg | Reuters
In her summation, Habba said that Carroll “has failed to show she is entitled to any damages at all.”
“It is Ms. Carroll’s burden is not President Trump’s to prove that his statements caused harm and she failed to meet that burden, it is common sense,” Habba said.
The attorney also suggested that Carroll had made up her claims of receiving “thousands of threats.”
Carroll had testified that she deleted most of those threats, making them unavailable as evidence.
“Either Ms. Carroll is lying to you and those messages never existed in the first place or she deleted them and wants you to rely on them and guess what they are not here and she has to give them to you to support her claim for damages and that is a fact,” Habba said.
Habba also said that not only did Carroll “not suffer any emotional harm” after publishing her claim in 2019 about Trump raping her “she was happier than ever.”
“She told Vanity Fair [magazine] that the support she received walking down the streets was heartwarming,” Habba said. “One of the most carefree and happy times of her life that she was in a cocoon of love … does this sound like someone whose world has come crashing down, who can’t sleep?”
“She was enjoying the newfound attention she was receiving,” the lawyer said.
Before the arguments began and jurors entered the courtroom, the judge issued a warning.
“During closing arguments, no one is to say anything other than opposing counsel,” said Kaplan. “There are to be no interruptions or audible comments by anyone else and that will apply when I charge the jury and that will apply to counsel then as well.”
Carroll’s lawyers have complained during the trial about Trump making comments that were audible to jurors while sitting with his attorneys at the defense table.
The nine-member jury is expected to begin deliberations later Friday after several hours of summations by Carroll’s lawyer and Trump’s attorney, and instructions from the judge.
Last year she won a $5 million judgment against him at the first trial. Trump is appealing that verdict.
Kaplan previously ruled that because of the prior verdict, there was no legal question that Trump defamed Carroll. That ruling left only the question of monetary damages remaining for the jury.
Trump during his very brief testimony in the trial Thursday said of Carrol’s claim, “I consider it a false accusation.”
Kaplan struck that testimony, in light of the prior jury’s verdict which found he had sexually abused Carroll.
Trump earlier this week defeated former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley in the Republican presidential primary in New Hampshire. Last week, he won the Iowa GOP caucuses.
This is developing news. Check back for updates.