A jury has determined that Donald Trump must pay E Jean Carroll more than $83m (£65m) in damages for his defamatory statements about the former Elle magazine writer, marking the year’s first federal court verdict against the former president as he campaigns for his return to the White House.
The nine-member jury awarded Ms Carroll $65m in punitive damages in addition to more than $18m in compensatory damages after he was previously found liable for sexual abuse and then smeared her sexual assault allegations as a lie, which fuelled abusive messages and death threats against her.
A verdict was delivered on Friday after roughly three hours of deliberation following a contentious two-week civil trial in a federal courtroom in Manhattan, where Mr Trump’s attorneys aggressively argued against Ms Carroll’s case while the former president repeatedly attacked and potentially defamed her in press conferences and dozens of posts on his Truth Social.
US district judge Lewis Kaplan barred Mr Trump and his attorneys from disputing the facts of the case: that he sexually abused her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s and defamed her in statements denying he assaulted her.
Those facts stem from a trial last year when a jury found him liable for sexual abuse and defamation in a verdict that awarded Ms Carroll $5m.
But even in the moments after that verdict was delivered, Mr Trump has not stopped repeating potentially defamatory statements against her.
As the verdict was being read on Friday, Ms Carroll held the hand of her attorney Shawn Crowley. When the damages were being read aloud, Ms Carroll turned her head toward the jury and smiled.
The unanimous decision by the jury left Ms Carroll and her legal team emotional. After Judge Kaplan dismissed the court, Ms Carroll, Ms Crowley and attorney Roberta Kaplan hugged each other and cried.
Mr Trump, however, wasn’t there. He left the courthouse moments earlier.
His attorney, Alina Habba, thanked the court staff and swiftly walked out of the courtroom with the rest of Mr Trump’s legal team. Outside the courtroom, she called the jury “ridiculous”, a term also used by Mr Trump to refer to the jury after the verdict.
“He [Mr Trump] took the stand, he abided by the rules of this corrupt system that I’ve seen. We will immediately appeal, we will set aside that ridiculous jury and I just want to remind you all of one thing, I will continue to fight with president Trump for everybody’s first amendment right to speak, everybody’s right to be able to defend themselves when they’re wrongly accused and to be able to say that I didn’t do it,” she told the press gathered outside.
Earlier in the day, Mr Trump abruptly stormed out of the courtroom in the middle of Ms Kaplan’s closing arguments. She noted to jurors that the first verdict against the former president was not enough to stop him from repeating potentially defamatory statements.
“No, not at all,” she said. “Not even for 24 hours.”
Ms Kaplan reiterated statements that her team made during opening arguments. She asked the jury to consider not only the appropriate amount Mr Trump owes for his defamation, but also how much it would take to make him stop.
The frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president has continued to smear Ms Carroll as a liar and a “whack job” who fabricated her claims and insists that he has never even met her. Even as he was arriving at the courthouse last week for the defamation trial, he unleashed dozens of potentially defamatory statements against her on Truth Social.
Mr Trump, who uses his court appearances as a stage for his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, has cast himself as the victim of a baseless conspiracy theory that the justice system is being weaponised against him.
“I have no idea who she is, where she’s come from,” he said in a video to his Truth Social page on Thursday night, hours before he would be ordered to pay millions of dollars for similar statements against her.
“This is another scam and a political witch hunt, and somehow we’re going to have to fight this stuff,” he said. “We cannot let our country go into this abyss. This is disgraceful.”
On Thursday, Mr Trump himself appeared on the witness stand for roughly three minutes. He said stood by statements in a previous deposition “100 per cent”.
Ms Habba was ultimately unsuccessful in her attempt to convince jurors that Ms Carroll “had failed to show she is entitled to any damages at all” because she “actively sought the comments and the attention” Mr Trump levelled against her.
“Absolutely ridiculous!” Mr Trump wrote on his Truth Social moments after Friday’s verdict was announced.
“They have taken away all First Amendment Rights. THIS IS NOT AMERICA!”
Mr Trump is expected to appeal.
The verdict adds to Mr Trump’s growing list of legal liabilities, including 91 criminal charges stemming from four separate federal and state-level charges and a potentially devastating lawsuit that could imperil his New York-based family business and his vast real estate empire.
Following 11 weeks of witness testimony in a civil trial against his Trump Organization, a New York judge is expected to deliver a judgment this month that could see $370m in fines against him, his adult sons and chief associates stemming from a blockbuster lawsuit alleging more than a decade of fraud.
Ariana Baio contributed reporting from the Daniel Patrick Moynihan federal courthouse