January 18, 2024

Judge in defamation case threatens to bar Trump from courtroom over interjections

Judge Lewis Kaplan threatened to bar former President Donald Trump from a New York City courtroom on Wednesday after Trump was heard making repeated comments about the testimony of E. Jean Carroll against him.

Trump reportedly said "that’s not true," "it’s a witch hunt," and "it really is a con job" during Carroll's testimony, which included her accusation that he raped her in a high-end clothing store's dressing room.

Kaplan excused the jury for lunch, then told Trump he would forfeit his right to be present in the courtroom during the rest of the trial if he continued making remarks during others' testimony.

"Mr. Trump, I hope I don't have to consider excluding you from the trial," Kaplan said in an exchange after the jury was excused for lunch, adding: "I understand you're probably eager for me to do that."

More comments

"I would love it," Trump responded from the defense table.

"I know you would like it. You just can't control yourself in this circumstance, apparently," Kaplan said.

"You can't either," Trump said under his breath as he walked out of the room.

The second defamation trial alleges that Trump made false and defamatory statements about Carroll in 2019 after she first accused him of rape.

The allegations actually predate the first trial and refer to comments Trump made in 2019 about Carroll, denying the allegations she made and saying "she's not my type."

At the time of Carroll's initial lawsuit in 2019, then-Attorney General Bill Barr ruled that Trump had immunity as president and couldn't be prosecuted. Biden's DOJ reversed this ruling around the time of the first trial verdict, which awarded Carroll $5 million.

"Reputational damage"

The new trial seeks $10 million for "reputational damage" and other specified costs. Carroll claimed that Trump's comments caused her to be the target of threats.

Trump lawyer Alina Habba argued in her opening that Carroll had actually become more famous since accusing Trump of rape and that "never-Trumpers" were propping her up and supporting her.

Habba also pointed out a timeline that showed Carroll was receiving threats before Trump made any comments about her or her allegations, so he couldn't be blamed for inciting them.

The judge had already ruled that he was liable for the comments about her, so the only question before jurors will be how much money he has to pay.

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