NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump could return to a New York courtroom Thursday to defend himself against a lawsuit seeking more than $10 million for things he said about advice columnist E. Jean Carroll after she accused him of sexual assault.
Trump’s first visit to court on Monday ended abruptly because a juror was ill. The trial has been suspended since then.
Carroll’s lawyers are expected to finish presenting their case in the morning. If everything goes as planned, Trump could be on the witness stand before a lunch break. Trump is fresh off big victories in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday and the Iowa caucus last week.
Carroll, 80, testified at a trial last year in the same courtroom that she was attacked by Trump in the dressing room of a midtown luxury department store in spring 1996. A jury last year agreed that it happened and awarded Carroll $5 million in damages for sexual abuse and defamation.
Trump denies ever knowing Carroll and says she made up her claims to sell a memoir. He did not testify at or attend last year’s trial, a decision he now says he regrets.
Judge Lewis A. Kaplan ruled that last year’s jury conclusions meant that a new jury chosen last week only needs to decide how much more money, if any, Trump owes Carroll for disparaging her and calling her a liar in 2019 while he was president.
Thus, Kaplan has ruled, Trump will be barred from testifying about subjects that would conflict with last year’s verdict. He will not, for instance, be permitted to say she made up her sexual assault claims or that she was motivated by her book deal or for political reasons.
Trump, 77, attended the trial two of three days last week and let the jury know — through muttered comments and gestures like shaking his head — that he was disgusted with the case against him.
Trump has already tested the judge’s patience. After he complained to his lawyers about a “witch hunt” and a “con job” within earshot of jurors, Kaplan threatened to eject him from the courtroom if it happened again. “I would love it,” Trump said. Later that day, Trump told a news conference Kaplan was a “nasty judge” and that Carroll’s allegation was “a made-up, fabricated story.”
When not in court, he has repeatedly made pronouncements on his social network similar to statements at stake in the trial. Carroll’s attorneys have put some of those statements before the jury, arguing that the only way to stop Trump from defaming Carroll is to hit him in a big way financially.
Trump’s attorneys have tried to show the jury through their cross-examination of witnesses that Carroll has gained a measure of fame and financial rewards through taking on Trump that outweighs the death threats and other venom slung at her through social media.
One of Trump’s lawyers, Alina Habba, has told the judge that he might testify because, even with the judge’s restrictions, “he can still offer considerable testimony in his defense.”
Among other things, he can testify about his state of mind when he made the statements that got him sued and about how his comments came as Carroll was doing media interviews and journalists were asking him about her, Habba wrote.
She also suggested he could “show his lack of ill will or spite” by talking about how he “corrected” his initial denial of having ever met Carroll.
Before he testifies, Carroll’s attorneys are expected to rest their case after calling a final witness whose testimony will likely last less than an hour and show snippets of a deposition that Trump underwent in October 2022.
The current trial is in addition to four criminal cases Trump faces as the presidential primary season heats up. He has been juggling court and campaign appearances, using both to argue that he’s being persecuted by Democrats terrified of his possible election.