In a landmark decision, a federal jury in Manhattan has ordered former President Donald Trump to pay over $83 million in damages to E. Jean Carroll, a writer and former Elle magazine columnist. This verdict is a significant legal and financial setback for Trump, particularly as he intensifies his campaign for the Republican nomination in the upcoming presidential election.
Carroll's accusation that Trump defamed her during his presidency by denying her allegations of sexual assault led to this substantial award. This sum notably surpasses the $5 million awarded to Carroll last year by another federal jury, which found Trump liable for sexually assaulting her in the 1990s and then defaming her in 2022.
Jury Delivers Swift Verdict
The jury, composed of seven men and two women, delivered their verdict after less than three hours of deliberation on Friday. Trump, 77, who had been present at the trial earlier, was absent during the verdict announcement.
Carroll, 80, emotionally embraced her lawyers after the verdict, declaring it a significant victory for women who confront bullying and injustice. In response to the verdict, Trump labeled it as "ridiculous" and indicated his plans to appeal, criticizing the legal system for being used as a political tool.
The damages awarded to Carroll are for Trump's comments made during his presidency, in which he accused Carroll of fabricating the assault to promote her book. Her legal team sought approximately $24 million for reputation repair and emotional distress, plus punitive damages to deter Trump from further derogatory comments, which he continued to make on social media and in campaign speeches.
Substantial Damages Awarded
The jury awarded Carroll $18.3 million in compensatory damages, with $11 million specifically for reputation repair, and $65 million in punitive damages, recognizing Trump's actions as malicious.
Trump's frequent presence at the current trial marked a strategic move to engage his supporters amid his 2024 campaign. His behavior in the courtroom, including shaking his head and commenting during Carroll's testimony, prompted concerns from her legal team about the jury's impartiality.
The previous $5 million award to Carroll is currently held in a court account pending Trump's appeal. The feasibility of Trump paying the new $83 million award during his appeal and his liquid assets' availability for such payment remain uncertain, with his most recent financial disclosure revealing a mix of liquid and non-liquid assets.
Trump's abrupt departure from the courtroom during closing arguments and the counter-argument by his lawyer, Alina Habba, who claimed Carroll gained fame and status rather than harm from the situation, underscored the contentious nature of the trial.
Habba's remarks emphasized the perception of Carroll seeking financial gain over social media harassment, adding a provocative dimension to the already complex legal battle.