NEW YORK — A federal judge ruled Wednesday that former President Donald Trump defamed the writer E. Jean Carroll in 2019 after she publicly claimed that he raped her decades earlier — a decision that paves the way for a jury to decide how much additional money in damages Trump should pay to Carroll.
It’s the latest legal setback for Trump in a pair of civil lawsuits that Carroll brought against him. Four months ago, a jury found that Trump sexually abused Carroll in the 1990s and that he defamed her in 2022 when he called her account a “hoax.” The jury ordered Trump to pay Carroll $5 million.
Carroll’s second case, which is scheduled to go to trial in January, focuses on separate statements that Trump made about her while he was president. He said in 2019 that Carroll was peddling a false rape accusation and he suggested that she was motivated by money.
In a 25-page opinion on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled that, based on the outcome of the earlier trial, most of the 2019 statements at issue in the upcoming case are defamatory — and that Trump is liable for them.
That leaves only the issue of damages for the next jury to decide. Any damages Trump is ordered to pay over the 2019 statements would be on top of the $5 million verdict in the prior case. Trump has appealed that verdict.
In his ruling Wednesday, however, Kaplan withheld judgment on one of Trump’s 2019 statements at issue in the lawsuit, saying “neither party adequately has addressed whether or not summary judgment should be granted or denied” in connection with a comment Trump made to The Hill newspaper in June 2019.
Trump’s lawyers had disputed that the outcome of the trial earlier this year in connection with his 2022 statements should determine whether the comments he made about Carroll while president were defamatory.
The verdict in May included a jury award of $2 million in compensatory damages for the sexual abuse claim, $2.7 million in compensatory damages for the defamation claim and an additional punitive damages award of $228,000.
A lawyer for Carroll, Roberta Kaplan (who is not related to the judge), said Wednesday: “We look forward to trial limited to damages for the original defamatory statements Donald Trump made about our client E. Jean Carroll in 2019.”
A lawyer for Trump, Alina Habba, didn’t respond to a request for comment.