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Trump requests a new trial in E. Jean Carroll defamation case

Trump's attorneys argued that the jury’s compensatory and punitive awards are out of proportion and should be reduced significantly.
Former President Donald Trump; E. Jean Carroll.
Former President Donald Trump and E. Jean Carroll.Getty Images; AFP

Donald Trump’s attorneys filed a motion Tuesday for a new trial in writer E. Jean Carroll's defamation case and asked a judge to substantially reduce the judgment of $83.3 million against the former president.

In a federal court filing in New York, Trump attorneys Alina Habba and John Sauer wrote that a district court could grant a motion for a new trial because, they argued, relevant evidence had been excluded and the jury had been “erroneously instructed” about a key component of the case.

"This Court’s erroneous decision to dramatically limit the scope of President Trump’s testimony almost certainly influenced the jury’s verdict, and thus a new trial is warranted," the attorneys wrote.

Efforts to restrict the scope of Trump’s testimony "were erroneous and prejudicial," the attorneys added, saying Trump's testimony about his state of mind when he made disparaging comments about Carroll was stricken from the record.

"President Trump’s testimony about his own state of mind is the most relevant and probative evidence on the issue of common-law malice, and he was uniquely positioned to address it," his attorneys wrote.

"By erroneously foreclosing any such testimony—and erroneously striking the one sentence of President Trump’s testimony on this point—the Court all but assured that the jury would make a baseless punitive-damages award," they added.

Trump's attorneys further argued that U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan’s jury instruction about common law malice was erroneous, because it "does not require a showing that intent to injury was the sole ... motivation for the challenged statements" that they contend is required by New York law.

Carroll attorney Roberta Kaplan declined to comment on Tuesday's filing.

Trump's attorneys contended that the jury’s compensatory and punitive awards are out of proportion and that they were motivated by sympathy rather than evidence. They argued that the $11 million award for reputational harm "is disproportionately high" compared to awards in similar cases.

In their filing, Trump’s lawyers cited case law that they indicated could reduce the punitive damages significantly — for a total award of no more than $36.6 million. The amount could be even less if the judge remits the compensatory damages, as well.

A jury found in January that Trump must pay Carroll $83.3 million in damages for repeatedly defaming her.

Trump last month sought a pause in enforcement of the verdict pending resolution of his post-trial motions. Trump’s final brief on the motion was filed Saturday. The judge has yet to rule on the matter.