March 1, 2024

Former President Donald Trump has been ordered by a federal jury to pay $83.3 million to E. Jean Carroll, in addition to a separate $5 million sexual abuse and defamation judgment issued against him last year.

Before the jury entered the room, senior U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan asked the panel what the “M” on their form signified. The foreperson made clear it was millions.

The announcement inspired joy from Carroll, who embraced her attorneys at the plaintiff’s table.

She has been litigating against Trump since 2019, the year she went public with her allegations against the then-president in The Cut, with a passage of her book “What Do We Need Men For?” That passage related a decades-old encounter with the then-private citizen and real estate mogul, which a previous New York jury unanimously determined to have been sexual assault.

During Trump’s presidency, Carroll accused him of raping her in the dressing room of a Bergdorf Goodman in the mid-1990s — and then defaming her by insulting her when she came forward decades later. Trump denied the accusation, telling reporters: “She’s not my type,” sparking a federal defamation lawsuit. (In a later deposition, Trump mistook a photograph of Carroll with a picture of his ex-wife, Marla Maples.)

After New York passed the Adult Survivors Act, temporarily lifting the statute of limitations for sexual assault, Carroll filed a separate lawsuit under that statute — and additional defamation claims based on Trump’s continuing denials. That case went to federal court last spring before a separate jury, which awarded Carroll millions for sexual abuse and defamation after a few hours of deliberations. 

Earlier this year, Judge Kaplan ruled that the prior verdict left only one issue to decide in Carroll’s remaining lawsuit: How much more Trump must pay in damages for statements he made during his presidency.

The jury’s answer threatened to compound the former president’s growing civil and criminal liabilities. Trump faces 91 felony charges from four separate state and federal cases, over conduct ranging from hush-money payments to pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels, allegedly mishandled classified documents in Mar-a-Lago, and the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The former president hopes to sidestep his criminal liabilities by getting his old White House job back.

Donald Trump and Jean Carroll in front of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.Trump: Brandon Bell/ Getty Images; Carroll: Stephanie Keith/ Stringer/ Getty Images; Courthouse: Roy Rochlin/ Getty Images

Before closing arguments began on Friday, Habba arrived late to court and infuriated the judge by continuing to dispute a judge’s ruling long after he ruled. 

“You are on the verge of spending some time in the lockup,” Kaplan warned just hours earlier. “Sit down.”

For former federal prosecutor Mitchell Epner, the verdict showed that Habba’s “scorched earth tactics” were “extremely self-destructive,” noting that Trump already posted cash in lieu of bond to appeal the first verdict — and will have to cough up more to avoid execution of the award.

“If Trump wants execution stayed during appeal, he would have to deposit ~$92M in cash or an appeal bond into court,” noted Epner, who is now a partner with Rottenberg Lipman Rich PC.

He noted that it’s typical to post 110 percent of the verdict in a bond on appeal to cover interest.

“Otherwise, Carroll can start seizing personal assets around the country (and put liens on real estate),” Epner added.

The defense told jurors that Carroll has been enjoying and profiting from her allegations against Trump. Carroll argues that Trump uprooted her life and compromised her sense of safety by continuing to attack her. Her legal team requested $12 million in reputational damages and at least an equivalent amount to compensate her for her suffering. They asked for an unspecified, though heavy, additional amount in punitive damages.  

The verdict ticked close to those requests on the compensatory damages: $7.3 in general damages plus $11 million for the reputational repair program. Jurors granted a separate award of $65 million in punitive damages.

Epner, who also practices media law, said that the ratio of punitive damages to actual damages is “well-within Constitutional limits set by Supreme Court.”

Just before the judge delivered jury instructions, Carroll’s other lawyer Shawn Crowley urged the nine-person panel to send the former president a message.

“This is her life,” Crowley said in her closing remarks. “Help her take it back. Make him stop. Make him pay enough so that he will stop.”