Trump loses bid for new trial on damages in E. Jean Carroll sexual abuse, defamation case

E. Jean Carroll exits the Manhattan Federal Court following the verdict in the civil rape accusation case against former U.S. President Donald Trump, New York City, May 9, 2023.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

A New York federal judge on Wednesday denied former President Donald Trump’s request for a new trial on monetary damages in the case where a jury ordered him to pay $5 million for sexually abusing and defaming writer E. Jean Carroll.

Judge Lewis Kaplan also rejected Trump’s bid to sharply reduce that monetary award, which came after a trial for Carroll’s lawsuit that ended in May.

“The jury in this case did not reach ‘a seriously erroneous result,'” Kaplan wrote in his decision, quoting from arguments made in Trump’s motion for a new trial in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

“Its verdict is not ‘a miscarriage of justice,'” the judge wrote.

The jury found Trump had sexually abused Carroll in a dressing room of the Bergdorf Goodman store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan after they had a chance encounter there one day in the mid-1990s. Jurors also found Trump had defamed Carroll in comments last fall denying her allegations.

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Trump’s lawyer Joseph Tacopina did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the ruling Wednesday. But in a court filing Wednesday he amended a pending appeal of the jury’s verdict to appeal Kaplan’s ruling on damages.

In a statement, Carroll’s lawyer Robbie Kaplan said, Now that the court has denied Trump’s motion for a new trial or to decrease the amount of the verdict, E Jean Carroll looks forward to receiving the $5 million in damages that the jury awarded her in Carroll II.”

Carroll II is how lawyers in the case refer to the lawsuit that resulted in this verdict.

“She also looks forward to continuing to hold Trump accountable for what he did to her at the trial in Carroll I, which is scheduled to begin January 15, 2024,” said Robbie Kaplan, who is not related to Judge Kaplan.

In that other civil lawsuit, Carroll alleges Trump defamed her in 2019, when he denied her claims after she first publicly accused Trump of raping her during the encounter. Trump made the comments in that case when he was president.

The U.S. Department of Justice last week abandoned a nearly three-year fight to shield Trump from civil liability in that lawsuit, which was the first one Carroll filed. The DOJ had argued that Trump made the comments about Carroll as part of his job as president.

But the DOJ dropped that claim after a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., suggested in an opinion that Trump could be sued personally if he did not make his statements about Carroll with the intention of serving the U.S. government.

The trial for the first lawsuit is set to begin as the Republican presidential primary season kicks off next year.

Trump is the leading candidate for the GOP nomination.

In addition to the civil case, he faces two criminal indictments.

In Manhattan state court, Trump is accused of falsifying business records in connection with a 2016 hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels. He has pleaded not guilty in that case.

Trump separately is charged in Florida federal court with about three dozen felonies related to his retention of classified government records when he left office, and to his alleged obstruction of efforts by U.S. officials to recover those records.

He likewise has pleaded not guilty in that case, where he has asked a judge to delay the trial until after the 2024 election.

On Tuesday, Trump said in a social media post that DOJ special counsel Jack Smith has notified him that he is a target in a criminal investigation into Trump’s efforts to undo his loss to President Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

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