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NEW YORK — A jury ordered Donald Trump on Friday to pay $83.3 million to the writer E. Jean Carroll over defamatory remarks he made about her while he was president in response to her rape accusation.
The bulk of the damages award is meant to punish Trump for repeatedly using his public platform to denigrate Carroll in defiance of prior court rulings that his verbal attacks are false and defamatory.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled last fall that Trump defamed Carroll by saying in 2019 that he had never met her and that her book, in which she accused him of having raped her in the dressing room of a luxury department store in the mid-1990s, “should be sold in the fiction section.”
The only question for the nine-person jury to decide was how much in damages Trump should pay. After deliberating for three hours, the jury ordered Trump to pay $18.3 million in compensatory damages and $65 million in punitive damages.
Compensatory damages compensate a plaintiff for harm or other losses they have suffered. Punitive damages are awards intended to punish the defendant for their conduct.
During their closing arguments Friday, Carroll’s lawyers encouraged the jury to order an “unusually high” punitive damages award, both because of Trump’s wealth and because he has continued to disparage Carroll, including during the trial. Even as the jury was deliberating on Friday afternoon, Trump kept up his attacks on Carroll in a stream of social media posts in which he again claimed he never met her, called her case a “hoax” and lobbed other insults against her and the legal system.
In a statement released Friday evening, Carroll said the verdict is "a great victory for every woman who stands up when she’s been knocked down, and a huge defeat for every bully who has tried to keep a woman down."
Trump, who left the courthouse shortly before the jury reached a verdict, called it “absolutely ridiculous” on social media and vowed to appeal.
Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, complained to reporters as she exited the courthouse that the judge had unfairly limited the legal arguments Trump was allowed to make. “We were stripped of every defense — every single defense — before we walked in there,” she said.
The nine members of the Manhattan jury were anonymous, meaning that Trump, Carroll and their lawyers did not know their names. Kaplan ordered the unusual anonymity provision because of the risk that people involved in the high-profile case would be subject to threats or harassment. After the verdict on Friday, Kaplan told the jurors, “My advice to you is that you never disclose that you were on this jury."
Friday’s award comes on top of a $5 million penalty a separate jury ordered Trump to pay Carroll in a trial last year in which Trump was found liable for sexual abuse regarding Carroll’s rape claims and for defamation for other comments he made about her in 2022.
Though Trump didn’t attend a single day of last year’s trial against Carroll, he not only sat in the Manhattan federal courtroom for most of the second trial, but he also testified in his own defense.
Asked by Habba whether he stood by the testimony he gave in a videotaped deposition that had been shown to the jury, he said, “100 percent, yes.” In part because Kaplan severely curtailed the scope of the former president’s testimony, Trump spent a total of just three minutes on the witness stand on Thursday.
Earlier in the trial, Kaplan threatened to kick Trump out of the courtroom after the former president made comments within earshot of the jury.
“You just can’t control yourself in this circumstance, apparently,” the judge said. Trump retorted: “You can’t either.”
As she had in the earlier trial, Carroll also testified, telling the jury that Trump’s comments about her — and the barrage of menacing and demeaning messages she said she received as a result of them — caused her emotional distress and damaged her reputation.
“Well, to have the president of the United States, one of the most powerful persons on earth, calling me a liar for three days and saying I’m a liar 26 times — I counted them — it ended the world that I had been living in,” she said. “And I entered a new world.”
Though she was once known as a writer, she testified, “now I’m known as a liar and a fraud and a whack job.”
Though the lawsuit concerned only two sets of remarks Trump made as president, Carroll’s lawyers presented evidence demonstrating that Trump has continued to make similar comments about Carroll through the present day, despite having been found liable for defamation in both the earlier case and by the judge in this one.
They showed the jury social media messages Trump posted about Carroll during the trial as well as clips from a press conference he held midway through the proceedings in which he referred to Carroll’s “made-up story.”
Friday’s award comes as Trump also awaits a verdict in a civil fraud trial in New York state court in which Attorney General Tish James’ office has accused him of massive business fraud. In that case, James has asked the judge to impose a financial penalty of $370 million.