A federal judge has rejected former President Trump’s motion to have columnist E. Jean Carroll’s $10million defamation lawsuit dismissed.
The ex-president had claimed that absolute presidential immunity and free speech rights shielded him from the writer’s claims that he defamed her in comments he made before and after she won a $5 million sexual abuse and defamation verdict against him last month.
But Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled on Thursday that Trump surrendered absolute presidential immunity as a defense by failing to assert it year ago, when the suit was first filed. It has been delayed in recent months as appeals courts considered the legal issues surrounding it.
He also argued that many of Trump’s statements about Carroll were opinion and thus were not protected under the First Amendment.
‘Mr. Trump did not merely deny Ms. Carroll’s accusation of sexual assault,’ Kaplan wrote in his ruling.
‘Instead, he accused Ms. Carroll of lying about him sexually assaulting her in order to increase sales of her book, gain publicity, and/or carry out a political agenda.’
A federal judge on Thursday rejected former President Donald Trump’s motion to have columnist E. Jean Carroll’s $10million defamation lawsuit dismissed
The former Elle writer, pictured arriving at a Manhattan federal court in a separate case against the former president last month, claims that he defamed her in comments he made before and after she won a $5 million sexual abuse and defamation verdict against him
In his 46-page decision, Kaplan said Trump waited too long to raise the absolute immunity defense, and that it would be unfair to Carroll to let him do so now and further delay the 3-1/2-year-old case.
The federal judge noted that he took into consideration that Carroll is now 79 years old and has pursued claims against Trump for 3 1/2 years.
Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled that Trump did not invoke presidential immunity early enough, and that his comments were not protected under the First Amendment
‘There is no basis to risk prolonging the resolution of this litigation further by permitting Mr. Trump to raise his absolute immunity defense now at the eleventh hour when he could have done so years ago,’ he said.
He then went on to explain that the main purpose of presidential immunity was to avoid diverting the president from public duties.
It is not, he said, a ‘get-out-of-damages-liability-free card that permits the president to say or do anything he or she desires even if that conduct is disconnected entirely from an official function.’
The judge further said Trump’s criticism of Carroll went beyond ‘the outer perimeter of his official duties’ as president.
‘Mr. Trump does not identify any connection between the allegedly defamatory content of his statements — that Ms. Carroll fabricated her sexual assault accusation and did so for financial and personal gain— to any official responsibility of the president,’ Kaplan wrote. ‘Nor can the court think of any.’
Kaplan also rejected Trump’s claim that the former Elle magazine columnist ‘consented’ to his statements by purposely waiting decades to go public, until he was in the White House, leaving him ‘no choice’ but to defend himself.
The former president, pictured at his campaign headquarters in New Hampshire Tuesday, is now countersuing Carroll
Carroll left court beaming from ear to ear after the jury found Trump liable for defamation and sexual abuse last month
She was earlier seen in court bowing her head as the verdict in the battery allegation was read out. As the defamation verdict was read she bowed it again, nodding in agreement
In rejecting claims that Carroll’s lawsuit was about protected speech, Kaplan explained how libel and slander cases are handled in the courts and why Trump’s statements could be construed to fit the legal definition for defamation, including that a jury had already found it so.
The Manhattan jury awarded Carroll $5million in damages in a sexual abuse and defamation lawsuit filed last November after New York state temporarily enacted a law allowing sexual assault victims to sue for damages resulting from attacks that occurred even decades earlier.
In the aftermath, Trump doubled down on his comments about Carroll at a CNN town hall — prompting her to assert new defamation claims in her 2020 lawsuit.
The former president slammed his accuser as a ‘whack job’.
He also mocked her ‘hanky panky’ and ‘fake’ allegations, claiming the judge banned his legal team from entering evidence that Carroll called her husband an ‘ape’ and had a cat ‘named Vagina’.
Many of Trump’s claims at the town hall mirrored those he made while president in 2019 when Carroll published a memoir in which she claimed Trump raped her in the dressing room of a luxury midtown Manhattan department store in spring 1996.
Within hours of excerpts from the book being published in a magazine, Trump denied a rape occurred or that he ever knew Carroll — claiming she made it all up to drum up book sales.
At a CNN town hall following the decision, Trump slammed Carroll as a ‘whack job’
In a statement, attorney Robbie Kaplan, who represents Carroll in the suit and is unrelated to the judge, said the judge’s ruling Thursday night ‘confirms that once again, Donald Trump’s supposed defenses to E. Jean Carroll´s defamation claims don’t work.’
She added: ‘Today’s decision removes one more impediment to the January 15 trial on E Jean´s defamation damages in this case.’
But Alina Habba, a lawyer for Trump, said: ‘We disagree with the court’s decision and will be taking the appropriate steps to preserve all viable defenses.’
The former president is also countersuing Carroll, claiming that she defamed him in a CNN interview just one day after the May 9 verdict by saying, ‘oh yes he did, oh yes he did,’ when asked about the jury finding that he did not commit rape.
Carroll’s original lawsuit is now scheduled for a January 15, 2024 trial.