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 that Carroll had sought.
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 to hear the verdict. He said in a social media post that he will appeal.
Carroll, 80, did not answer reporters’ questions as she left the courthouse, with her arms around two of her lawyers. Her representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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 seven-man, two-woman jury, whose members were kept anonymous, awarded Carroll $18.3 million in compensatory damages, including $11 million for harm to her reputation.
The jurors also awarded $65 million in punitive damages, which Carroll said were 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 was binding for the second trial, including that Trump sexually abused Carroll by forcing his fingers into her vagina.
That meant the only issue left for jurors was how much Trump should pay.
TRUMP WON’T BE DETERRED, LAWYER SAYS
Alina Habba, the lawyer 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, but returned for Habba’s closing argument.
He has used Carroll’s case and his other legal travails to portray himself as the victim of politically motivated lies and a biased, out-of-control judicial system. Trump separately has 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.
Trump 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 trial, Trump was heard muttering at 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.
TRUMP SAW A ‘HOAX’
Kaplan, who is not related to the judge, had argued that Trump acted toward Carroll as though he were not bound by the law.
“This trial is about getting him to stop, once and for all,” she added. “Now is the time to make him pay for it 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.
She also argued that Carroll enjoyed her newfound fame and was “happier than ever,” citing her testimony that she had entered a “cocoon of love” from her supporters.
Trump was allowed to testify on Thursday, but spent only four minutes on the witness stand.
His brief appearance resulted from Judge Kaplan having forbidden him and his lawyers from revisiting issues that the first trial had settled.
Trump confirmed that he stood behind his October 2022 deposition testimony, which jurors had been shown, 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.