NEW YORK – The $5 million awarded to a columnist by a jury that concluded she was sexually abused in the 1990s by Donald Trump in a New York luxury department store should be reduced to less than $1 million, the former president's lawyers told a judge Thursday, saying the award was grossly excessive and based on “pure speculation.”
The lawyers noted in a written submission that a Manhattan federal court jury last month rejected a rape claim made by the writer, E. Jean Carroll, concluding instead that she had been sexually abused in spring 1996 in the store's dressing room.
“Such abuse could have included groping of Plaintiff's breasts through clothing, or similar conduct, which is a far cry from rape,” the lawyers wrote.
They said the $2 million granted by the jury on a sexual abuse claim was “grossly excessive” and another $2.7 million issued for compensatory defamation damages was "based upon pure speculation."
The award should consist of no more than $400,000 for sex abuse, no more than $100,000 for defamation and $368,000 or less for the cost of a campaign to repair Carroll's reputation, the lawyers wrote.
If a judge does not grant the suggested reduction in the award, then he should permit a new trial on damages, they said.
Carroll, 79, testified at the trial that she had a flirtatious and friendly chance encounter with Trump at a midtown Manhattan Bergdorf Goodman store until he followed her into a dressing room and became violent.
Trump, 76, did not attend the trial, but lengthy excerpts of a videotaped deposition from last October were played for jurors. In them, he denied ever encountering Carroll at the store or knowing her. He said he believed she made the claims against him in part to promote a 2019 memoir in which she first publicly made allegations against him.
Roberta Kaplan, Carroll's attorney, said in an emailed statement that the arguments by Trump's lawyers were frivolous.
She said the unanimous jury had concluded that Trump sexually assaulted Carroll and then defamed her “by lying about her with hatred, ill-will, or spite.”
“This time, Trump will not be able to escape the consequences of his actions,” Kaplan said.
Trump may still face a second defamation trial resulting from another lawsuit Carroll filed against him. That case has been delayed with appeals as the U.S. Justice Department sought to substitute the United States as the defendant in place of Trump. Government lawyers say Trump can't be held liable for the comments he made as president.