Four months after a jury found that Donald Trump sexually abused and defamed advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that still more of the ex-president’s comments about her were libelous. The decision means that an upcoming second civil trial will concern only how much more he has to pay her.
The ruling stands to streamline significantly the second trial, set for January. It concerns remarks that Trump made in 2019, after Carroll first publicly claimed that Trump sexually attacked her in a luxury department store dressing room in the 1990s, which he denies.
The first trial, this spring, concerned the sexual assault allegation itself and whether more recent Trump comments were defamatory. Jurors awarded Carroll $5 million, finding that she was sexually abused but rejecting her allegation that she was raped.
“The jury considered and decided issues that are common to both cases — including whether Mr. Trump falsely accused Ms. Carroll of fabricating her sexual assault charge and, if that were so, that he did it with knowledge that this accusation was false” or acted with reckless disregard for the truth, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote in Wednesday's decision.
The judge said the jury's May verdict, by finding that Trump had indeed sexually abused Carroll, effectively established that his 2019 statements also were false and defamatory.
Carroll and her attorneys “look forward to trial limited to damages for the original defamatory statements Donald Trump made,” said her lawyer Roberta Kaplan, who's not related to the judge.
Trump lawyer Alina Habba said Wednesday that his legal team is confident that the jury verdict will be overturned, mooting the judge’s new decision. Trump, the early front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, also is seeking to delay the second trial.