In a significant legal blow to former President Donald Trump, a jury has awarded a staggering $83.3 million in additional damages to advice columnist E. Jean Carroll. The verdict was delivered on Friday in a closely watched trial that revolved around Carroll’s accusations of sexual assault against Trump and his subsequent denials, which she claimed damaged her reputation.
The seven-man, two-woman jury reached the decision in a trial that Trump attended regularly. However, during the closing arguments by Carroll’s lawyer, he abruptly left the courtroom only to return later. Carroll, who accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in 1996, smiled as the verdict was read, while Trump left the building in his motorcade, dismissing the decision as “absolutely ridiculous” in a statement and pledging to appeal.
This marks the second time in nine months that a jury has ruled in favor of Carroll. In May, she was awarded $5 million when a different jury found Trump responsible for sexually abusing her and defaming her by claiming she fabricated the assault. Trump is appealing that decision.
Notably, Trump attended the second trial and even testified for a few minutes, denying the allegations. The judge, however, limited the scope of his testimony, ruling that he had missed his chance to argue his innocence. Trump left the witness stand grumbling, “this is not America.”
The recent jury was tasked with determining the damages for two statements made by Trump as president, responding to reporters’ questions after excerpts of Carroll’s memoir were published. Jurors were not asked to reevaluate the issue of whether the alleged sexual assault occurred.
Carroll’s attorneys had sought $24 million in compensatory damages, along with “an unusually high punitive award.” Her lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, urged the jury to deliver a punishment significant enough to deter Trump from making further defamatory statements against her.
During the trial, Carroll testified that Trump’s public statements had led to death threats, prompting her to take security measures such as installing an electronic fence and purchasing bullets for self-defense. Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, argued that Carroll had been enriched by her accusations and that no damages were warranted.
As Trump marches towards a potential third consecutive Republican presidential nomination, he has sought to portray the legal proceedings as evidence of a weaponized political system. Despite the legal challenges, his core supporters view the cases with skepticism, aligning with his narrative.
The verdict comes at a critical juncture for Trump, who remains a prominent figure in American politics, using legal vulnerabilities to his advantage. As he faces the prospect of more legal battles, the implications of this latest verdict could reverberate through his political future.