E. Jean Carroll testifies on defamation

Former US President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower for Manhattan federal court for the second defamation trial against him, in New York City on January 17, 2024. 

Charly Triballeau | AFP | Getty Images

A New York federal judge threatened Wednesday to kick Donald Trump out of court for making “disruptive” comments during the trial that will determine how much he has to pay E. Jean Carroll for defaming her after she alleged he raped her decades ago.

The warning by Judge Lewis Kaplan came after Carroll’s lawyer complained that Trump had continued making comments audible to jurors, including, “This really is a con job,” even after the judge told him to “keep his voice down.”

“Mr. Trump has the right to be present here that right can be forfeited and it can be forfeited if he is disruptive, and if he disregards court orders,” Kaplan said after jurors were excused for lunch at U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

“Mr. Trump I hope I don’t have to consider excluding you from the trial, I understand you are very eager for me to do that,” the judge said. “I know you would because you just can’t control yourself in this circumstance.”

Trump raised his hands in the air and shook them in response to Kaplan’s warning.

The judge earlier in the day had snapped at Trump’s lawyer.

“I said sit down!” Kaplan told the attorney, Alina Habba when she repeated her call to postpone the trial so that Trump could attend his mother-in-law’s funeral.

Habba replied, “I don’t like to be spoken [to] like that … I will not speak to you like that.”

Kaplan shot back, “It is denied. Sit down.”

Trump grumbled, “Nasty guy,” after the judge’s sharp rejection of Habba’s argument.

The tense exchange occurred before Carroll began testifying about the reputational and emotional harm she suffered from Trump’s defamatory statements as president in 2019, and afterward, when he denied her claim that he sexually assaulted her in a New York City department store in the mid-1990s.

Former magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll (R) arrives at Manhattan federal court in New York on January 17, 2024 for the second defamation trial against former US President and 2024 presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Angela Weiss | AFP | Getty Images

“To have the President of the United States, one of the most powerful persons on earth, call me a liar for three days and say it 26 times, I counted them,  it ended the world I had been living in and I lived in a new world,” Carroll testified in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

Trump slammed the defense table at one point, shook his head in anger and disbelief, and made comments that were audible in the courtroom when Carroll answered questions from the witness stand.

After a recess in the proceedings, Carroll’s lawyer Shawn Crowley told Kaplan that Trump had been sitting at the defense table and loudly saying things including, Carroll’s statements are false,” and “now she seems to have gotten her memory back.” 

The judge admonished Trump after the recess.

“Before we bring in the jury I’m just going to ask Mr. Trump to take special care to keep his voice down so the jury does not overhear it,” Kaplan told him.

In her testimony, Carroll said, “I am here because Donald Trump assaulted me and when I wrote about it he lied and he shattered my reputation.”

“He lied last month, on Sunday, yesterday and I want my reputation back,” the former Elle magazine advice columnist said.

“I am 80 and I spent 50 years building my reputation. My column was very popular,” Carroll testified. “Yesterday I opened up Twitter and it said, ‘Hey lady you’re a fraud.’ “

Lawyer Alina Habba stands to argue with Judge Lewis Kaplan during jury selection in the second civil trial after E. Jean Carroll accused former U.S. President Donald Trump of raping her decades ago, at Manhattan Federal Court in New York City, U.S., January 16, 2024 in this courtroom sketch. 

Jane Rosenberg | Reuters

Trump had claimed he never met Carroll, which was not true, that she had made up her allegation of rape to sell a book she was writing, and that she was “not my type.”

“I’m not his type means I’m too ugly to assault,” Carroll said.

She testified that ever since Trump denied her allegations, the messages from his supporters to her “have never stopped.”

“I receive them all the time, sometimes hundreds a day,” Carroll said. “The common them is you’re a liar, you hurt victims, you are ugly.”

This trial is the second federal one to be held in connection with Carroll’s allegation and Trump’s defamation of the writer.

Lawyer Shawn Crowley opens for her client E. Jean Carroll before Judge Lewis Kaplan in the second civil trial after Carroll accused former U.S. President Donald Trump of raping her decades ago, at Manhattan Federal Court in New York City, U.S., January 16, 2024 in this courtroom sketch. 

Jane Rosenberg | Reuters

Last year, a Manhattan federal court jury ordered Trump to pay Carroll $5 million after finding that he was civilly liable for sexually abusing her in the attack at the Bergdorf Goodman store in the 1990s, and for defaming her in statements he made about her in late 2022.

The jury did not find that Trump had raped Carroll, but that finding hinged on the fact that Carroll could not say whether he had penetrated her in the store’s dressing room with his penis or a finger.

Under New York state law, rape involves penetration by a penis. But Kaplan has noted in court orders Carroll’s use of the term rape is consistent with how the public often defines it, and with how other states’ penal codes define it.

Trump is appealing the verdict in that case.

The current trial is solely dealing with the monetary damages Trump must pay Carroll for defamatory statements he made about her in 2019 while president, and at different times later when he denied her allegations. Kaplan previously ruled that because of the first jury’s verdict, there was no longer a legal question that Trump had defamed Carroll.

Carroll’s lawyers are asking for at least $10 million in damages in the current case.

Habba last week unsuccessfully asked Kaplan to postpone the trial so that Trump could attend the funeral of his wife Melania Trump’s mother, Amalija Knavs, in Florida on Thursday without having to miss being at the trial that day.

Trump at a campaign event earlier this week condemned Kaplan for refusing to postpone the trial, calling him and other judges in cases involving him “animals.”

When the trial began Tuesday with jury selection, Habba complained about Kaplan’s refusal to delay the case until after the funeral.

She resurrected the complaint on Wednesday morning, with Trump sitting close to her.”My client and I would like to reiterate that she [Carroll] can sit here every day and she did not have death in her family and it is insanely prejudicial,” Habba said.

“I am asking your honor to have the kindness to let my client be with his family and not miss trial,” the lawyer said.

Kaplan again rejected the request and sharply told Habba to “sit down” when she persisted.

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