In a high-profile defamation case, former US President Donald Trump has been ordered to pay E. Jean Carroll, a writer, approximately $83.3 million (about R$409 million). Caroll accused Trump of ruining her credibility as a reliable journalist after he denied raping her over 30 years ago. The verdict was reached by a federal jury, and the damages awarded exceeded Carroll’s initial request of around R$49 million (about $10 million).
Taking just three hours, the seven-person jury unanimously found Trump guilty and issued a judgment for compensatory damages of $18.3 million (R$89.96 million) and punitive damages of over $65 million (R$320 million). Punitive damages are intended to penalize the defendant for their actions.
The controversy began when Trump adamantly denied Carroll’s accusation that he raped her in the dressing room of a Manhattan department store, Bergdorf Goodman, in the mid-1990s. Carroll, who is now 80 years old, filed a lawsuit against the 77-year-old former president in November 2019, after enduring five months of denial from Trump.
Trump, in his defense, claimed that Carroll fabricated the story to boost sales of her biography and that he had no recollection of ever meeting her. However, a jury in May found Trump guilty of sexually assaulting Carroll and defaming her by suggesting she invented the account. As a result, Carroll was awarded damages of nearly $5 million (R$24.5 million).
During the trial, Carroll testified that she never sought medical or police assistance after the incident and that her book served as an outlet for her experiences with sexual assault, inspired by the Me Too movement. She stated, “It took me a long time to realize that being silent doesn’t work.”
In the subsequent period, Trump continued to attack Carroll on his social media platform, Truth Social. The New York Times reported that he posted forty derisive comments about her in a single day. These remarks, along with others made by Trump, further damaged Carroll’s reputation.
“I’ve been attacked on Twitter, I’ve been attacked on Facebook, I’ve been attacked on news blogs, I’ve been brutally attacked in messages,” Carroll revealed. As a result, her inbox was inundated with emails soliciting her counsel, dropping from 200 per month to just eight.
According to a damages expert from Northwestern University who spoke on Carroll’s behalf, the harm to her reputation caused by Trump’s remarks ranged from $7.3 million to $12.1 million (R$59.48 million).
During the trial, Trump repeatedly expressed his disagreement, using terms like “scam” and “witch hunt.” He even walked out of the courtroom while Carroll’s lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, was delivering her final statement. Trump later referred to the ruling as “absolutely ridiculous” and suggested that Carroll should file an appeal. It is worth noting that Truth Social served as the platform for both Trump’s denials and attacks.
The former president strongly disagreed with both verdicts and vowed to challenge the entire investigation. He asserted that the case was part of a political witch hunt orchestrated by President Joe Biden to target him and the Republican Party. Trump criticized the judicial system, claiming that it had become a political weapon and that all rights to free speech had been taken away.
The case between E. Jean Carroll and Donald Trump highlights the ongoing battle for justice and accountability in defamation cases involving powerful public figures. The substantial damages awarded by the jury may serve as a deterrent against similar misinformation campaigns in the future.