NEW YORK (AP) — With former President Donald Trump no longer in the courtroom Thursday, a columnist who accused him of sexually attacking her concluded her testimony with an emphatic denial that she had benefited from the publicity that followed the allegations.
A Trump attorney tried to show the jury that E. Jean Carroll has achieved the fame, if not the fortune, she desired after the publication of a memoir accusing Trump of raping her in a department store dressing room in the 1990s.
Carroll responded: “No, my status was lowered. I’m partaking in this trial to bring my own reputation and status back.”
The testimony came on the third day of a trial in Manhattan federal court that will determine what damages, if any, Trump owes for remarks he made about Carroll when he was president. A jury has already found Trump liable for sexually abusing Carroll in 1996 and defaming her in a separate round of denials he made following his presidency.
In her final day on the witness stand, Carroll said her allegations against Trump – first made public in a 2019 article in New York Magazine – had brought her an unexpected degree of infamy, along with death threats.
An attorney for Trump, Alina Habba, countered that Carroll’s social media followers increased “exponentially” since the allegations, adding that she had gained professional opportunities and social standing among left-leaning celebrities.
“I’ve been invited to two parties,” Carroll responded dryly, before adding: “Yes, I’m more well known and I’m hated by a lot more people.”
Trump, who had attended the first two days of the trial, was in Florida Thursday for the funeral of his mother-in-law.
During the previous day’s proceeding, he was scolded by Judge Lewis A. Kaplan and threatened with expulsion after a lawyer for Carroll complained he was grumbling about the case loudly enough that jurors could hear him.
Though he was absent from the courtroom Thursday, Trump’s presence still loomed over the proceedings, as lawyers for Carroll played a video of his press conference from the previous evening describing the trial as “rigged” and Carroll as “a person I never knew.”
On Thursday, Habba also showed jurors a series of mean tweets sent to Carroll in the hours after her allegations became public in 2019 but before Trump released his first public statements — an apparent effort to prove the vitriol directed at Carroll was unrelated to the former president’s statements.
“They follow Donald Trump. They want to emulate him,” Carroll said. “They’re standing up for the man they admire.”
The judge quickly shut down the line of questioning, saying it was “simply repetitious.”
Carroll has testified that her life changed dramatically after Trump branded her a liar, claimed he never met her and asserted that she made her claims against him to promote her book and damage him politically. She said she lives in fear, sleeps with a loaded gun beside her and wishes she could boost her security but doesn’t have enough money.
Last May, a jury in the same courtroom awarded Carroll $5 million in damages after concluding Trump sexually abused her in a Bergdorf Goodman store across the street from Trump Tower in spring 1996 and then defamed her with statements in October 2022.
In that verdict, jurors rejected Carroll’s claim that she was raped, finding Trump responsible for a lesser degree of sexual abuse. The judge said the jury’s decision was based on “the narrow, technical meaning” of rape in New York penal law and that, in his analysis, the verdict did not mean that Carroll “failed to prove that Mr. Trump ‘raped’ her as many people commonly understand the word ‘rape.’”
Trump did not attend that trial and has said recently on the campaign trail that he was advised by his attorney to stay away.
Trump has been animated during his two days in the courtroom this week, shaking his head at testimony he disagreed with, passing notes to his lawyers and speaking to them while jurors were in the room.
During his confrontation with the judge on Wednesday, Trump responded to the threat to eject him from the courtroom with: “I would love it.”
That prompted the judge to say: “I know you would. You just can’t control yourself in these circumstances, apparently.”
After he left the courthouse Wednesday, Trump told reporters that Kaplan, a Bill Clinton appointee, was “a nasty judge” and a “Trump-hating guy” who was “obviously not impartial.”
Sometime next week, the jury will be asked to determine damages. Carroll is seeking $10 million in compensatory damages and substantially more in punitive damages.
Northwestern University sociologist Ashlee Humphreys, who testified at last year’s trial, told the jury Thursday that Trump’s 2019 statements had caused between $7.2 million and $12.1 million in harm to Carroll’s reputation after they were seen or heard about up 104 million times through social, print and broadcast media. Her estimates were based on what she said it would cost to repair Carroll’s reputation.
Habba said in an opening statement that Carroll should not receive more money, particularly since the death threats and comments she receives on social media are not unusual for public figures with a strong social media presence.
“Regardless of a few mean tweets, Ms. Carroll is now more famous than she has ever been in her life, and loved and respected by many, which was her goal,” Habba told jurors.