NEW: Judge Rules Trump Defamed E. Jean Carroll in 2019

AP Photo/Craig Ruttle

If the headline has you a bit perplexed, you could be forgiven, as there are not one but two defamation suits involving E. Jean Carroll and former President Donald Trump, both of which are/were before U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan (no relation to Carroll's lawyer, Roberta Kaplan) in the Southern District of New York. The one that went to trial in late April and resulted in a $5 million jury verdict in favor of Carroll (Carroll II) derived from statements Trump made in 2022 about Carroll (and her allegations that he had sexually abused her). 

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The original lawsuit (Carroll I) derived from similar statements Trump made in 2019. In that case, Carroll sued solely for defamation after Trump, in response to her publishing an article and book in which she claimed that Trump sexually assaulted her in the Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York City in 1995 or 1996, denied the alleged assault (essentially branding her a liar), denied knowing her, and asserted Carroll wasn’t his “type.” That case was delayed, however, while the parties litigated whether the fact that Trump was president at the time of the earlier statements afforded some degree of immunity for them. Ultimately, the judge ruled that it did not, and the case was set for trial in January 2024. Trump filed a counterclaim in Carroll I regarding statements Carroll made about him following the verdict in Carroll II, but that has now been dismissed by the court as well. 

On Wednesday, the judge granted partial summary judgment in favor of Carroll, ruling that Trump's 2019 statements were libelous — based, in large part, on the jury's finding in Carroll II that Trump had, in fact, sexually assaulted Carroll (though they did not find that he raped her). 

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NEW YORK (AP) — Four months after a jury found that Donald Trump sexually abused and defamed advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that still more of the ex-president’s comments about her were libelous. The decision means that an upcoming second civil trial will concern only how much more he has to pay her.

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“The jury considered and decided issues that are common to both cases — including whether Mr. Trump falsely accused Ms. Carroll of fabricating her sexual assault charge and, if that were so, that he did it with knowledge that this accusation was false” or acted with reckless disregard for the truth, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote in Wednesday’s decision.

The judge said the jury’s May verdict, by finding that Trump had indeed sexually abused Carroll, effectively established that his 2019 statements also were false and defamatory.

This isn't the final chapter of the litigation, of course. Trump may well appeal Wednesday's ruling. In addition, he's already appealed the jury verdict in Carroll II. If that verdict ultimately is overturned, that would undermine the basis for the judge's most recent ruling, as noted by Trump's attorney: 

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Trump lawyer Alina Habba said Wednesday that his legal team is confident that the jury verdict will be overturned, mooting the judge’s new decision. Trump, the early front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, also is seeking to delay the second trial.

The full text of Judge Kaplan's ruling can be read below:

Carroll v Trump - Ruling by Susie Moore on Scribd

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