A jury found that serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) guilty of sexually assaulting E. Jean Carroll decades ago and said that he should pay her $2 million in damages for the assault and another $3 million in damages for defaming her. The very next day, SSAT appeared at a live event that was broadcast by CNN in front of a specially chosen friendly crowd where he proceeded once again to say the same things about Carroll that the jury had said constituted defamation.
Carroll and her attorney Roberta Kaplan then filed an amended suit against SSAT asking this time for punitive damages. When juries award damages in a civil suit, then assign a monetary value for the actual damage suffered by the claimant and can also add punitive damages which are meant to punish the defendant and discourage such behavior in the future. In the Carroll case, they did not award punitive damages and SSAT’s actions immediately after suggested that he was not at all remorseful by being rebuked.
In an interview with New Yorker editor David Remnick, Carroll and Kaplan talked about the case and their amended suit. Kaplan explained that the case just decided was not the first assault and defamation suit filed by Carroll against SSAT. This was a surprise to me. Kaplan calls that earlier case Carroll I and that case is still pending.
When E. Jean wrote her book and an excerpt from it was published in New York Magazine, Trump responded almost immediately with what we call a three-day defamation rampage, kind of classic Trump, he ramped up the rhetoric each day saying cooler and more vicious things. Those were the statements that we originally sued him for defamation about. That case, which is just limited to that defamation, we filed in the fall of 2017, and because he made those statements as president or he was– Let me withdraw that, I would not say he made them as president.
Because his job was president when he made those statements, it’s gotten wrapped up in some very complicated technical issues about whether or not the Department of Justice should be the proper defendant, whether the case should be dismissed because you can’t sue a sitting president for something he does as president for defamation, et cetera, and a spin on kind of a Dickensian three-year path through the federal court system. It’s still pending, and that case is now before Judge Kaplan.
The second case, which we affectionately call Carroll II, which was the case that was just tried, that was for the underlying assault because New York passed a law that allowed women now to sue for assaults that happened outside the statute of limitations, and two, classic Trump during the course of the case in October of last year, he made another defamatory statement, and we added that to the case.
That’s the case that was just tried, and we reached the verdict, and that was the underlying assault, which the jury said was $2 million in damages, and the 2022 defamation, which the jury said was $3 million in damages, but we still have Carroll I, and if you think about it, it makes sense. That’s where the damages are highest because that’s the first time he said the stuff about her. That’s when it really damaged her reputation. That’s when she lost her job [as an advice columnist for Elle magazine].
Kaplan says that since defamation has already been established in the Carroll II trial just completed, the legal team for SSAT cannot now re-litigate that issue and that it would be hard to find anything more justifying the award of punitive damages than a defendant continuing the same behavior just after being found guilty because of it, since that shows contempt for the verdict.
Kaplan said that she was astonished that SSAT’s legal team did not offer up a single witness of their own during the trial and that the defendant did not even show up at all. She has never seen anything like that and she thinks that this hurt SSAT.
Trump is a liar. He lied about E. Jean, he’s done it now several times, he continues to do it, and he has a pattern in which he lies, the way in which he lies, which is, he gets more vicious and more resolute and nastier over time.
We saw that in terms of the three defamations now or the three different times he has defamed E. Jean. I’m sure they’ll continue before we get to a jury again. The jury saw that, they saw the videotape of his deposition where he was clearly lying, and they concluded that he was a liar. One of the things I said in my closing argument is, in order for Trump to win here, you have to believe that he’s the only one telling the truth and that the 11 witnesses that E. Jean put on, they are all lying. Well, we know which way the jury came out. They concluded that E. Jean and the 10 other witnesses were telling the truth and that Trump was the liar.
I don’t think I’ve ever had a civil case where no one from the defendant shows up. I think we all know why he didn’t show up here because I think he thought and his lawyers definitely told him he would be in worse trouble if he showed up, but to have an empty seat at the defense table is unprecedented, at least in my lifetime, and the jury definitely saw that.
E. Jean, in great contrast, testified I think it was for almost three days, about two and a half to three days, calmly and unbelievably patiently took questions that were really, really hard to answer. The contrast between her sitting up there having taken an oath, patiently answering Joe Tacopina’s questions, and Trump not showing up, and then the only way they saw him was on video when I deposed him at Mar-a-Lago when he spent a lot of the video just insulting both me and E. Jean, the contrast could not have been clearer.
So SSAT still has two cases to defend from Carroll, the first defamation case and now the most recent punitive damages case. Any other defendant would have exercised caution after the first loss about what to say in public, but not SSAT. As Kaplan says, “I don’t think he can help himself, honestly. I don’t think he has enough development in the frontal lobe of his brain to do that.”