A federal court has, for the second time this year, ruled that Donald Trump defamed E. Jean Carroll, who accused the former president of sexually assaulting her in a New York department store dressing room in 1996. On Wednesday, US District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan declared that Carroll had sufficiently proved in a previous civil case that Trump’s comments about her sexual assault allegations were libelous. Now, the upcoming trial—slated for January 2024—will focus only on what the billionaire owes Carroll in damages.
In 2019, after Carroll published a book containing the sexual violence allegations, Trump attacked her credibility and physical appearance in the press. As my colleague Russ Choma previously wrote, another jury found Trump culpable for both sexual abuse and defamation in May, convinced by Carroll’s account of Trump’s assault.
After Carroll went public with the story, Trump lashed out, calling her a liar and saying she wasn’t “my type”—which Carroll testified she interpreted to mean she was “too ugly to rape.” She sued him for defamation, but the case got bogged down in arguments over whether Trump was protected from the lawsuit because of his role as president. But when Trump repeated his comments in November 2022, Carroll filed a new lawsuit.
After only three hours of deliberation, the jury found Trump’s 2022 comments defamatory. That verdict became the basis for Kaplan’s determination of whether or not Trump’s comments in 2019 were similarly disparaging.
“The truth or falsity of Mr. Trump’s 2019 statements therefore depends—like the truth or falsity of his 2022 statement—on whether Ms. Carroll lied about Mr. Trump sexually assaulting her. The jury’s finding that she did not therefore is binding in this case and precludes Mr. Trump from contesting the falsity of his 2019 statements,” Kaplan wrote, according to NBC News.
Kaplan’s decision is only the most recent loss for Trump’s legal team. In August, another federal judge tossed out the ex-president’s appeal in the 2019 case, calling it “frivolous.” Now, Trump will have to pay Carroll an undetermined amount in damages—adding to the $5 million he already owes her from the previous defamation case.