A $5 million jury verdict that found Donald Trump liable for sexually abusing and defaming writer E. Jean Carroll was “grossly excessive,” and he should either get a new trial or have to pay less in damages, the former president’s lawyers contended on Thursday.
In court documents filed in federal court in New York City, Trump’s attorneys argued the $2 million the jury awarded Carroll for the battery claim, involving an alleged attack in a New York City department store in the 1990s, is inflated because the jurors did not find by a “preponderance of the evidence” that Trump had raped Carroll — only that he had sexually abused her.
“Such abuse could have included groping of Plaintiff’s breasts through clothing or similar conduct, which is a far cry from rape,” the filing said.
The jury also awarded Carroll just under $3 million on her defamation claim. Trump’s lawyers contended in the filing that the amount should be reduced, as well, because part of the award stemmed from Trump’s denying he raped her.
Trump’s legal team asked the judge to either reduce the total $5 million award to about $900,000 or grant Trump a new trial.
Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, called Trump’s arguments “frivolous.”
The jury “carefully considered the evidence that Ms. Carroll presented” during the two-week trial that ended last month, Kaplan said, and “Trump did not put on a single witness of his own.”
She added, “This time, Trump will not be able to escape the consequences of his actions.”
Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Carroll’s suit included a battery claim for the alleged attack in the dressing room of a Bergdorf Goodman department store near Trump Tower in 1996.
The battery claim included different elements, including one for rape and one for sexual abuse.
Asked on its verdict sheet whether Carroll, 79, had proven “by a preponderance of the evidence” that “Mr. Trump raped Ms. Carroll,” the nine-person jury checked the box that said “no.” Asked whether Carroll had proven that “Mr. Trump sexually abused Ms. Carroll,” the jury checked the box that said “yes.”
Trump, who has consistently denied Carroll’s claims and any wrongdoing, has also filed a notice of appeal.
The case that went to trial was Carroll’s second lawsuit against Trump. In a court filing this week, Trump also tried to use the jury’s verdict to block a separate pending defamation suit Carroll filed against him when he was president, in which she argued that he defamed her by calling her rape claim a hoax.
The filing contends that the suit — which had been tied up in appeals over whether Trump had presidential immunity against her claims — should not be allowed to proceed because the jury in the other case did not find him liable for rape.
The “operative question in this case is, and has always been, whether a rape occurred in the Bergdorf Goodman dressing room,” Trump’s filing said, and the jury “found that one did not.”
Kaplan pushed back against that argument, as well, this week.
“Contrary to Donald Trump’s latest arguments, the jury’s verdict makes complete sense — because the jury believed E. Jean Carroll when she testified that Trump had sexually abused her, it concluded that Trump knowingly lied about Ms. Carroll when he later claimed otherwise,” she said.
Dareh Gregorian is a politics reporter for NBC News.