Trump and the E. Jean Carroll Case

Elections & Politics Policy Brief #121 | By: Arvind Salem | February 01, 2024
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On January 26, 2024, a New York jury ruled that Trump was responsible for paying journalist Elizabeth Jean Carroll (usually referred to as E. Jean Carroll) $83.3 million in damages: a huge legal setback for Trump as he faces a total 91 state and federal charges.

This case is an extension of a previous case centered around allegations that in 1996 Trump raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in New York City. Trump entirely dismissed the accusations and attacked Carroll’s character, which she alleges caused her damages to her career and constituted defamation. The jury ruled that Trump didn’t rape Carroll, but he was liable for sexual assault and awarded her $5 million in compensatory damages and punitive damages for the defamation.

This new case centers around further comments Trump made post-presidency and continued damage that those comments have inflicted on E. Jean Carroll. Given that this is the second time this issue has been litigated, and Trump was found to be responsible, Trump was given much harsher punitive damages: out of the $83.3 million in total payment, $18.3 million was for compensatory damages, the largest part being $11 million for damages to her reputation, and $65 million in punitive damages, which she claimed she needed to stop Trump from continuing to defame her. Trump has already stated that he would appeal both decisions: meaning that Carroll will not see the nearly $90 million total for a long time, until all appeals are exhausted.

Policy Analysis:

This case was allowed to proceed despite the statute of limitations already expiring, due to a New York state law passed in 2022 called The Adult Survivors Act that gave all sexual abuse victims a year to file civil lawsuits, even if the statute of limitations had run out. Under this law, Carroll sued Trump. However, since this law only allows for civil suits, Carroll could only sue for the defamation  a civil violation) and not the assault ( a criminal offense). Additionally, this case was previously blocked by the Trump justice department, with Bill Barr, the attorney general, arguing that Trump made his statements as part of his official capacity as president. In 2023, the Biden Justice Department lifted the restriction and allowed the case to move forward.

This trial took the verdict of the other trial as fact, so this case was predicated on the fact that Trump did assault Carroll, and the only question was the extent of the damages especially regarding Trump’s later statements. This trial also tested Trump’s courtroom presence, which will likely be important in his later, higher-stakes trials. In this regard, Trump did not make a good impression on the judge, by audibly commenting during Carroll’s testimony such that opposing counsel and the jury could hear, which resulted in him getting admonished. He also, in one last act of defiance, stormed out during closing arguments, leaving his lawyer alone to deliver the argument.

Engagement Resources:

  • Joe Biden for President: Readers who have reservations about voting for Trump in 2024 because of this case should explore this website to see if Joe Biden is an alternative that they would support.
  • DCCC: Readers who are inclined to support the Democratic party after hearing about this case may wish to explore this site to donate to Democratic Congressional Campaigns in 2024.

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