Judge lets columnist amend defamation claim with over $10 million demand for damages from Trump

Jun 13, 2023, 2:59 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — A columnist who recently update a similar lawsuit with his more recent public comments in a bid for over $10 million more in damages from the ex-president, a federal judge ruled Tuesday in another legal loss for Trump.

The ruling by Judge Lewis A. Kaplan gave new life to a defamation lawsuit by writer E. Jean Carroll that was stalled by appeals after the U.S. Justice Department supported a request by Trump’s attorneys to substitute the United States for him as the defendant on the grounds that he cannot be held personally liable for comments made while carrying out presidential duties.

The 2020 defamation lawsuit was originally filed after Carroll wrote in a 2019 book that Trump raped her in a midtown Manhattan Bergdorf Goodman store after he turned a friendly and flirtatious chance encounter between the pair into a violent encounter once behind a closed dressing room door.

Trump, she maintained, disparaged her afterward, spoiling her career and reputation, as he denied ever meeting her at the store located across the street from Trump Tower, where Trump resided before assuming the presidency as a Republican in January 2017.

The Associated Press typically does not name people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Carroll has done.

Nine jurors agreed in a civil trial last month that Carroll had failed to prove that she was raped in the spring 1996 encounter, but they agreed there was sufficient evidence to conclude in a deposition and in public comments that damaged her reputation.

Since the jury awarded $5 million in damages, Trump’s attorneys have filed arguments asking to reduce the award to less than $1 million or grant a new trial on damages. They say the jury proved Trump was not lying when they rejected Carroll’s rape claim.

Trump, 76, who did not attend the trial, has continued to insist he didn’t really know Carroll, 79. In his fall deposition, he misidentified her in a photograph as his ex-wife Marla Maples.

The day after the verdict at a CNN town hall, Trump repeated his longstanding claims that he didn’t know Carroll, called her a “whack job” and repeated his claims that she made up the story that he attacked her.

Days later, Carroll’s lawyers asked the judge if she could amend her defamation lawsuit to add Trump’s latest comments and demand at least $10 million and “very substantial” punitive damages.

In his two-page order Tuesday, Kaplan noted that Justice Department lawyers say they’ll have to reevaluate whether the United States should be substituted for Trump as a defendant based on new events affecting the lawsuit, including the new claims made by Carroll that are based on statements he made while no longer president. He’s allowed submissions to be made on the issue through Aug. 3.

Trump’s attorney did not immediately comment.

Attorney Roberta Kaplan, who represents Carroll and is not related to the judge, said in a statement: “We look forward to moving ahead expeditiously on E Jean Carroll’s remaining claims.”

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Judge lets columnist amend defamation claim with over $10 million demand for damages from Trump