Judge warns Trump he could be barred from E. Jean Carroll trial

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Donald Trump's verbal outbursts during the writer E. Jean Carroll's emotional testimony about threats of death and rape she received prompted a judge to warn the former president that he could be kicked out of the courtroom.

Trump returned to the federal courthouse on Wednesday for the second day of the trial in the defamation case brought by Carroll, who accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in a department store in the 1990s.

Judge Lewis Kaplan has already found that Trump's comments in 2019 calling her a liar and denying her account were defamatory, and the trial is focused solely on what damages Carroll should receive. She was awarded $5 million last year in a separate defamation case over other Trump comments, in which he was found liable for sexual abuse.

Carroll took the witness stand Wednesday morning. During a break in testimony, her attorney Shawn Crowley complained to the judge that Trump was making audible comments that the jury could hear. Later on, Crowley said Trump continued to comment on Carroll's testimony despite Kaplan's warnings to remain quiet. She said she heard Trump remark, "It is a witch hunt, and it really is a con job."

The judge said: "Mr. Trump has a right to be present here. That right can be forfeited if he is disruptive and if he disregards court orders."

He then warned Trump that he could be barred from attending, to which Trump replied, "I would love it."

"You just can't control yourself," the judge said.

Trump replied, "You can't either."

The former president's appearance at the trial is not mandatory. He attended the opening day of proceedings hours after his victory in the Iowa caucuses, and left early to fly to New Hampshire for a campaign rally before returning to New York. The Granite State holds its primary next Tuesday.

E. Jean Carroll's testimony

E. Jean Carroll arrives at the federal courthouse in Manhattan on Jan. 17, 2024. / Credit: ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images
E. Jean Carroll arrives at the federal courthouse in Manhattan on Jan. 17, 2024. / Credit: ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

On the witness stand, Carroll testified about her background, career and the impact that remarks Trump made in 2019 denying her account have had on her life.

"This laid me low," she said at one point, seeming to choke up. A former advice columnist, she said people used to email her asking for guidance, and that gave her "joy." Now, she said, she receives hundreds of negative messages per day.

During her testimony, the jury and Trump were shown screenshots of a series of extraordinarily descriptive and graphic threats of violence that Carroll has received. One text message read: "I'm very sorry, my friend said he wants to kill you and I cannot stop him."

Carroll choked up audibly twice while the threats were displayed, and apologized to the room for having to see the messages. She noted that she still cannot afford the 24/7 personal security she would like. She said she has a pit bull that patrols her yard.

Her attorneys also played a video from Trump's Truth Social platform from the night after he was first held liable for sexual abuse and defamation in May 2023, in which Trump once again denied knowing who she was, and called her suit a witch hunt. In the courtroom, Trump could be heard commenting, "It's true."

At one point, Carroll was asked if she has gotten used to the attacks online. She said: "Never. I will never, never get used to attacks like that."

Several members of the nine-person jury watched Trump closely during Carroll's testimony. They were all taking notes, and appeared to be listening closely.

Carroll's cross-examination by Trump attorney Alina Habba was repeatedly interrupted as Kaplan admonished her for improper courtroom procedures, at one point telling her, "Refresh your memory about how it is you get a document into evidence."

On several occasions, when the judge ruled against or chided Habba, Trump grinned widely. Trump has previously posted on social media that he believes Kaplan is biased against him.

The former president appeared amused when Carroll acknowledged publicizing and "keeping people informed" about the lawsuits.

Carroll said she "wanted people to know that a woman can speak up and win at trial. It's not right to try and make women be quiet, this has been going on for too long."

Late in the day, Carroll acknowledged that she may have deleted some of the threats she received via email. Habba quickly asked for a mistrial, saying Carroll may have violated a subpoena by doing so. Even more quickly, the request was denied.

Trump could be seen shaking his head. The trial had been expected to wrap by the end of the week, until Trump asked for a delay in order to attend his mother-in-law's funeral. Kaplan declined to postpone proceedings, but said he will delay its end, if needed, so Trump can testify. The former president has not said whether he intends to take the stand.

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