Trump returns to E. Jean Carroll trial courtroom as his lawyer gives closing arguments

Former U.S. President Donald Trump departs for his second civil trial after E. Jean Carroll accused Trump of raping her decades ago, outside a Trump Tower in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., January 26, 2024. 

Eduardo Munoz | Reuters

Donald Trump on Friday stalked out of a New York federal courtroom shortly after a lawyer for E. Jean Carroll began a closing argument at his sex defamation trial, where she urged jurors to award monetary damages “large enough that it will finally make him stop” slandering the writer.

Trump’s dramatic departure came minutes after the judge in the case warned his lawyer she was risking being tossed into jail before closing arguments began at the trial, which determine how much the former president owes E. Jean Carroll in monetary damages for defaming her when she accused him of raping her in the mid-1990s.

“The record will reflect that Mr. Trump just rose and walked out of the courtroom,” said Judge Lewis Kaplan.

Trump returned about an hour later after Carroll’s attorney finished her summation, and just before Trump’s attorney began her closing argument.

In her closing argument, Carroll’s lawyer Roberta Kaplan, who is not related to the judge, asked jurors to impose punitive damages on Trump for refusing to stop defaming Carroll even after a jury last year held him liable for doing so and ordered him to pay her $5 million.

Trump’s comments have sparked death threats and vicious emails and tweets directed at Carroll, the lawyer said.

“The dollar amount has to be very large,” Roberta Kaplan said. “It is at least as much and probably much more than the $12 million” that the lawyer noted an expert witness had testified it could cost to repair Carroll’s reputation after Trump accused her of investing her claim.

“Last trial, Donald J. Trump didn’t even bother to show up, but this trial where it is about damages he has been sure to be here and the one thing he cares about his money,” Kaplan said. “He doesn’t care about the law or truth but does care about money and your decision on punitive damages is the only hope that he stops.”

“How much will it take to make him stop? You cost him lots and lots of money,” she said.

Trump “is worth billions of dollars he said that under oath, he could pay a million dollars a day for ten years and still have money in the bank,” Kaplan said. “When you begin deliberations I encourage you to step back and think of bigger picture, a former president of the United States who sexually assaulted, defamed and continues to defame.”

Earlier, Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba, who had already irked Judge Kaplan for showing up late in court, angered him when she persisted in arguing that defense lawyers should be able to show a slide to jurors during their summation that represented some tweets related to Carroll.

“You are not going to use a slide to represent how many tweets there were, you are not using that slide, period,” Judge Kaplan said.

When Habba said, “I need to make a record,” referring to putting her argument on the record, the judge issued his warning.

“You are on the verge of spending time in the lockup, now sit down!,” the judge told Habba.

Before the arguments began and jurors entered the courtroom, the judge issued a warning.

“During closing arguments, no one is to say anything other than opposing counsel,” said Kaplan. “There are to be no interruptions or audible comments by anyone else and that will apply when I charge the jury and that will apply to counsel then as well.”

Carroll’s lawyers have complained during the trial about Trump making comments that were audible to jurors while sitting with his attorneys at the defense table.

The nine-member jury is expected to begin deliberations later Friday after several hours of summations by Carroll’s lawyer and Trump’s attorney, and instructions from the judge.

Last year she won a $5 million judgment against him at a different, but related trial. Trump is appealing that verdict.

E. Jean Carroll arrives at Manhattan federal court in New York as her defamation suit against Donald Trump continues on January 26, 2024 in New York City. 

Spencer Platt | Getty Images

In that prior case, jurors ruled that the 78-year-old Trump was liable for sexually abusing the writer in the attack at a New York department store, and for defaming her in disparaging statements he made in 2022 while denying her allegation.

The current trial is dealing with different, but similar statements Trump made as president about Carroll in 2019, after she first went public with her account of the attack in a New York magazine article.

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Kaplan previously ruled that because of the prior verdict, there was no legal question that Trump defamed Carroll. That ruling left only the question of monetary damages remaining for the jury.

Trump during his very brief testimony in the trial Thursday said of Carrol’s claim, “I consider it a false accusation.”

Kaplan struck that testimony, in light of the prior jury’s verdict which found he had sexually abused Carroll.

Trump earlier this week defeated former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley in the Republican presidential primary in New Hampshire. Last week, he won the Iowa GOP caucuses.

This is developing news. Check back for updates.

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