Judge blocks Trump lawyers from arguing about columnist’s rape claim at upcoming defamation trial


NEW YORK (AP) — A judge late Saturday said former President Donald Trump’s lawyers can’t present legal arguments to a jury assessing damages at a defamation trial on a jury’s conclusion last year that he didn’t rape a columnist in the mid-1990s.

U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan made the determination in an order in advance of a Jan. 16 trial to determine defamation damages against Trump after a jury concluded Trump sexually abused columnist E. Jean Carroll but did not find evidence was sufficient to conclude that he raped her.

Trump, speaking in Iowa on Saturday as the Republican frontrunning presidential candidate in advance of a Jan. 15 primary, criticized the judge as a “radical Democrat” and mocked E. Jean Carroll for not screaming when she was attacked. “It was all made up,” he said.

Carroll, 80, won a $5 million award last May from a jury that concluded Trump sexually abused her in 1996 in a luxury department store dressing room and defamed her in 2022.

Trump did not attend the Manhattan trial where Carroll testified that a chance encounter at a Bergdorf Goodman store across the street from Trump Tower was flirtatious and fun until he slammed her against a wall in a dressing room and attacked her sexually. Trump has vehemently denied it.

In this month’s trial, a jury will consider whether damages should be levied against Trump for remarks he made after last year’s verdict and in 2019 while he was president after Carroll spoke publicly for the first time about her mid-1990s claims in a memoir.

Carroll’s lawyers had asked the judge to issue the order, saying that Trump’s attorneys should not be allowed to confuse jurors this month about last year’s verdict by trying to argue that the jury disbelieved Carroll’s rape claim.

They said the jury’s finding reflected its conclusion that Trump had forcibly and without consent digitally penetrated Carroll’s vagina, which does not constitute rape under New York state law but which constitutes rape in other jurisdictions.

Carroll’s lawyers said the “sting of the defamation was Mr. Trump’s assertions that Ms. Carroll’s charge of sexual abuse was an entirely untruthful fabrication and one made up for improper or even nefarious reasons.”

A lawyer for Trump did not immediately return a message Saturday.

Carroll is seeking $10 million in compensatory damages and substantially more in unspecified punitive damages at the trial. She will testify and Trump is listed as a witness. The trial is expected to last about a week.

Meanwhile, Trump has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges in four indictments, two of which accuse him of seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, as well as a classified documents case and charges that he helped arrange a payoff to porn actor Stormy Daniels to silence her before the 2016 presidential election.

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