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Jury to Decide Damages in Trump Defamation Case

FILE - E. Jean Carroll arrives at Manhattan Federal Court, in New York, May 9, 2023.
FILE - E. Jean Carroll arrives at Manhattan Federal Court, in New York, May 9, 2023.

A U.S. federal judge ruled Wednesday that a jury in an upcoming civil defamation case against former President Donald Trump will have to decide only how much more he owes a longtime New York advice columnist because a jury already decided that he sexually abused her in a luxury department store dressing room in the 1990s.

Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York said the facts behind a federal jury’s decision earlier this year involving E. Jean Carroll’s assault claims against Trump will carry over to the scheduled January defamation case.

In the abuse case, the jury, while rejecting her rape claim against Trump, ordered him to pay Carroll $5 million for abusing and defaming her. Trump, now the leading Republican candidate for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination, has appealed the verdict and denies he attacked her.

After Carroll, a one-time college cheerleader and later an advice columnist for Elle magazine, first filed her lawsuit, the former U.S. leader claimed he didn’t know her and that in any event he wouldn’t have been attracted to her because she wasn’t “my type.”

A picture shown at the trial showed them chatting and socializing decades ago at a New York party.

The first trial concerned the sexual assault accusation itself, an incident that allegedly occurred after what Carroll, now 79, said was a chance encounter with Trump at the Bergdorf-Goodman department store in New York when he asked her to help him shop for a gift for a woman.

In Wednesday’s decision, Kaplan wrote, “The jury considered and decided issues that are common to both cases — including whether Mr. Trump falsely accused Ms. Carroll of fabricating her sexual assault charge and, if that were so, that he did it with knowledge that this accusation was false” or acted with reckless disregard for the truth.

"The truth or falsity of Mr. Trump's 2019 statements therefore depends … on whether Ms. Carroll lied about Mr. Trump sexually assaulting her," Kaplan said. "The jury's finding that she did not therefore is binding in [the defamation] case and precludes Mr. Trump from contesting the falsity of his 2019 statements."

Although Carroll’s suit was filed in 2019, the judge in June allowed her lawyers to add the statements Trump made against her at a CNN town hall political event that was broadcast the night after he lost the abuse case in May.

“This woman, I don’t know her. I never met her. I have no idea who she is,” Trump said. “She’s a whack job.”

Carroll lawyer Roberta Kaplan, who is not related to the judge, said Carroll looks forward to a trial “limited to damages for the original defamatory statements Donald Trump made.”

Trump lawyer Alina Habba said that his legal team is confident that the jury verdict will be overturned, which would moot the judge’s new decision.

The civil case is one of an array of court challenges Trump is facing in the coming months.

He has been charged in four criminal cases encompassing 91 charges, two involving attempts to overturn his 2020 reelection loss to Democrat Joe Biden, another for his handling of highly classified national security documents after he left office in 2021 and a fourth for allegedly falsifying business records to hide $130,000 in hush money payments to a porn film star ahead of his successful 2016 run for the White House.