NEW YORK — A jury in New York ordered former US president and 2024 candidate Donald Trump on Friday to pay US$83.3 million to compensate the writer E. Jean Carroll whom he was found to have sexually assaulted and defamed.
The civil order, which prompted an audible gasp in the federal court, far exceeds the more than US$10 million in damages for defamation that Carroll had sought.
Trump lashed out almost immediately calling the verdict “ridiculous” in a statement and promising to appeal.
The jury reached its decision after slightly less than three hours of deliberations.
Following the verdict, Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba spoke only to thank court staff. A juror exchanged a smile with Carroll as the nine men and women left the courtroom after the judge encouraged them to protect their privacy.
“It’s clear to me… you paid attention,” Judge Lewis Kaplan told the jury following the verdict.
The order was comprised of US$65 million punitive damages after the jury found Trump acted maliciously in his many public comments about Carroll, US$7.3 million in compensatory damages, and US$11 million for a reputational repair programme.
Trump – whom a jury found liable for sexual assault of Carroll in a separate federal civil case in New York – used his Truth Social platform to fire off a spate of insulting messages attacking Carroll, the trial, and the judge, whom he called “an extremely abusive individual”.
Trump, 77, briefly took the stand on Thursday to deny he instructed anyone to harm Carroll with his statements.
During Trump’s testimony, Judge Lewis Kaplan limited him to three questions from his lawyers, to which he could only answer yes or no – a precaution taken to prevent the Republican leader from returning to his custom of disparaging the court or Carroll in public.
“This is not America,” Trump said as he left the courtroom following his short appearance.
He was not required to attend the trial or to testify. However, he has used the case, as well as others he faces, to generate heated media coverage and to fuel his claims of being victimised as he campaigns for a return to the White House in November’s election.
Trump separately faces multiple criminal cases, including his alleged attempt to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election, which he lost to Joe Biden, and a civil business fraud case.
Habba sought to have the case thrown out Thursday on the grounds that threatening messages targeting Carroll, which have been aired in the case, began on social media before Trump’s 2019 comments. Her request was denied.
Jurors were shown Trump’s October 2022 deposition during which he confused a picture of Carroll for his former wife Marla Maples, which threatened to cast doubt on his claim Carroll was not his “type”.
Last year, another federal jury found Trump liable for sexually assaulting Carroll in a department store dressing room in 1996 and subsequently defaming her in 2022, when he called her a “complete con job”.
Trump had been in court while he campaigned ahead of the New Hampshire primary, which he won handily over his only remaining challenger Nikki Haley, as he closes in on becoming the Republican candidate in the November election against Biden. — AFP