On Friday, a Manhattan jury unanimously ordered Donald Trump to pay $83.3 million to journalist and writer E. Jean Carroll. Trump has now lost close to $100 million in his legal battles with Carroll alone.
Having vowed to appeal the decision, and with other civil suits nearing conclusion, that figure may well balloon further.
The saga started almost five years ago. In June 2019, Carroll publicly accused Trump of sexually assaulting her in a dressing room in 1996. The then-president furiously denied Carroll’s “false accusation,” claiming he “never met” her and that she was “not my type.” A few months later, Carroll sued for defamation. The Justice Department tried to intervene but was prevented by Judge Lewis Kaplan. In November 2022, New York’s Adult Survivors Act allowed Carroll to sue Trump again, this time for the actual assault and additional defamatory remarks Trump had made.
In May 2023, a jury unanimously decided that Trump had “sexually abused” Carroll and ordered him to pay $5 million in damages for defaming Carroll by denying her story. Later in 2023, Trump attempted to claim that he should have presidential immunity for the defamatory comments he had made while in office, but was denied.
Which brings us to January 2024. Trump and his lawyer, Alina Habba, made headlines for their performances during the trial — and not for good reasons.
Habba fought with Judge Kaplan over a dozen times during a single hearing. Kaplan appeared to lose patience with Habba multiple times during the proceedings, telling her, “I make the rulings here, not the lawyers,” and, “We’re going to do it my way in this courtroom, and that’s all there is to it.”
Habba also drew criticism from lawyers and legal experts for making a series of basic errors during the trial, like apparently forgetting to enter a tweet as evidence. “Guess what?” Kaplan told her. “You may not read from a document that’s not in evidence.” He called a break, advising Habba to use the time to “refresh your memory about how it is you get a document into evidence.”
Trump also faced Kaplan’s ire during the trial. At one point, the judge threatened to kick Trump out of the trial, warning him that his right to be present “can be forfeited if he is disruptive.” Trump replied by saying he “would love” to be thrown out, to which Kaplan responded, “I know you would, because you can’t control yourself.”
Ultimately, Trump left by himself, storming out while Carroll’s lawyer gave her closing statement. Roberta Kaplan (unrelated to Judge Kaplan) later told POLITICO that Trump’s tantrum won Carroll an extra $10 million.
In fact, $10 million was all Carroll had sought in the case. But after less than three hours, the jury of seven men and two women decided that Trump should pay her $83.3 million — $18.3 in compensatory damages for the comments, which she said had “shattered” her reputation, and $65 million in punitive damages to stop Trump from making further defamatory comments.
Trump dismissed the decision as “absolutely ridiculous” and vowed to appeal. “He’s the rare defendant,” a legal expert told the New York Times, “who actually has the money. Wherever this lands, [Carroll] should be able to collect.” The Times reported that Trump has enough cash to cover the sizable sum, but with a decision pending in his $370 million civil fraud trial, he may have to part with some of his property empire soon.
Meanwhile, Carroll said she plans to “give the money to something Donald Trump hates.” Like, for example, “a fund for the women who have been sexually assaulted by Donald Trump.”
Rohan Montgomery is a reporter and researcher based in New York and London. His work has been published in the BBC, The Nation, the New Republic, and elsewhere.