A New York writer who won a $5 million jury verdict against ex-President Donald Trump can’t win a pending defamation lawsuit against him because the jury agreed with Trump that he never raped her, his lawyers told a judge Monday.
The lawyers urged Judge Lewis A. Kaplan to reject columnist E. Jean Carroll’s bid to win $10 million or more in a second judgment by rewriting the 4-year-old lawsuit against Trump to conform with the findings of the jury that last month concluded Trump sexually abused Carroll but did not rape her.
The lawsuit was filed after Carroll said in a 2019 memoir for the first time publicly that Trump attacked her in the dressing room of a midtown Manhattan Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in the mid-1990s.
The lawsuit has been stalled because the U.S. Justice Department wants to substitute the United States for Trump as the defendant on the grounds that he was acting in his capacity as a president when he spoke on the issue in response to questions by reporters in 2019.
After the civil jury concluded Trump had sexually abused and defamed Carroll with comments last fall and awarded $5 million in damages, lawyers for Carroll, 79, asked Kaplan to amend the original defamation lawsuit to seek $10 million in compensatory damages and “very substantial” punitive damages.
They also sought to add defamation claims to the original lawsuit, citing comments Trump, 76, made at a CNN town hall shortly after the jury verdict.
Trump's lawyers wrote that the jury verdict favors Trump's position in the pending lawsuit that he never defamed Carroll by claiming that he never raped her because the jury rejected the rape claim at trial. Trump, who never attended the trial, is appealing the jury verdict.
Kaplan must decide whether to accept the rewrite of the original defamation claim and Carroll's assertion that the pending defamation case could go straight to the penalty phase of a trial because a jury had already concluded that Trump sexually abused Carroll. He also must decide whether the United States can be substituted as the defendant in place of Trump, which would effectively nullify the action.
Attorney Roberta Kaplan, who is not related to the judge, said in a statement Monday in response to the filing by Trump's attorneys that the jury verdict supported the claims in the pending lawsuit.
“A unanimous jury found that Donald Trump inserted his fingers into E. Jean Carroll’s vagina against her will and then defamed her when he said that he did not know who E. Jean Carroll was, that he had never met her at Bergdorf Goodman, and that she had made the whole story up as part of a ‘con job’ or ‘hoax,’" Kaplan said.
"Contrary to Donald Trump’s latest arguments, the jury’s verdict makes complete sense — because the jury believed E. Jean Carroll when she testified that Trump had sexually abused her, it concluded that Trump knowingly lied about Ms. Carroll when he later claimed otherwise,” she added.