IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Trump is denied a new trial in E. Jean Carroll's sexual assault and defamation case

U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan also rejected the former president's attempt to reduce the $5 million verdict awarded to the writer, who says Trump sexually assaulted and defamed her.
E. Jean Carroll arrives at Manhattan Federal Court on May 9, 2023.
E. Jean Carroll was awarded $5 million in damages in her lawsuit against Trump.Justin Lane / EPA

A federal judge in New York on Wednesday denied Donald Trump's bid for a new trial over E. Jean Carroll's civil sexual assault and defamation claims against the former president.

In a 59-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan also denied Trump's request to reduce the $5 million in damages a jury awarded Carroll this year.

Kaplan wrote that Trump's arguments that the $2 million she was awarded on the sexual assault claim was "excessive" were "entirely unpersuasive."

"There is no basis for disturbing the jury’s sexual assault damages. And Mr. Trump’s arguments with respect to the defamation damages are no stronger," Kaplan wrote.

An attorney for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Trump has denied assaulting Carroll and has a separate appeal of the verdict pending.

Trump's argument for a new trial or a reduced award centered on the nine-member jury's finding in May that Carroll, 79, had not proven "by a preponderance of the evidence" that Trump raped her in the dressing room of a New York City department store in the mid-1990s. The jury did find Trump liable on another element of Carroll's battery claim: sexual abuse.

Trump's lawyers contended that the finding could have been based on such allegations as “groping of Plaintiff’s breasts through clothing or similar conduct, which is a far cry from rape,” and that the damages award was therefore excessive.

Kaplan said the argument was "frivolous" because there was "no evidence whatever that Mr. Trump groped Ms. Carroll’s breasts, through her clothing or otherwise."

Carroll, a magazine writer, testified that Trump's only sexual contact with her was when he penetrated her with his fingers and then his penis.

"The jury’s finding of sexual abuse therefore necessarily implies that it found that Mr. Trump forcibly penetrated her," and the damages are therefore not excessive, Kaplan wrote. 

Carroll attorney Roberta Kaplan said in a statement that her client "looks forward to receiving the $5 million in damages that the jury awarded her."

"She also looks forward to continuing to hold Trump accountable for what he did to her at the trial" in another civil defamation case against Trump that is scheduled to begin in January.

That case involves statements Trump made about Carroll while he was president and after the $5 million jury verdict, including his saying her claims were a financially motivated "hoax."

Trump has filed a counterclaim alleging Carroll defamed him by continuing to say he raped her in public statements following the jury verdict.

In his ruling Wednesday, Judge Kaplan indicated that may be a losing argument.

He noted that rape in New York criminal law "applies only to vaginal penetration by a penis," a definition that is "far narrower than the meaning of ‘rape’ in common modern parlance, its definition in some dictionaries, in some federal and state criminal statutes, and elsewhere."

"The finding that Ms. Carroll failed to prove that she was 'raped' within the meaning of the New York Penal Law does not mean that she failed to prove that Mr. Trump 'raped' her as many people commonly understand the word 'rape.' Indeed, as the evidence at trial recounted below makes clear, the jury found that Mr. Trump in fact did exactly that," he wrote.