Columnist’s lawyer warns judge that Trump hopes to ‘sow chaos’ as jury considers defamation damages

NEW YORK (AP) — A lawyer for a columnist who last year won a $5 million jury award against Donald Trump for sex abuse and defamation urged a judge Friday to take strong measures to ensure the former president doesn’t “sow chaos” when a new jury considers next week if he owes even more in damages.

Trump said Thursday that he will attend the Manhattan federal court trial, where a jury will consider a request beginning Tuesday by lawyers for columnist E. Jean Carroll that she be awarded $10 million in compensatory damages and millions more in punitive damages for statements Trump has made.

“If Mr. Trump appears at this trial, whether as a witness or otherwise, his recent statements and behavior strongly suggest that he will seek to sow chaos. Indeed, he may well perceive a benefit in seeking to poison these proceedings,” attorney Roberta Kaplan wrote in a letter to the judge.

“There are any number of reasons why Mr. Trump might perceive a personal or political benefit from intentionally turning this trial into a circus,” Kaplan said.

She said she worried about “the possibility that he will seek to testify, and the associated risk that he will violate Court orders if he does so.”

She recommended that Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who is unrelated to the lawyer, warn the Republican frontrunner in this year’s presidential race of the possible consequences of violating court orders severely limiting what Trump and his lawyers can say at the trial.

A lawyer for Trump did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The judge has ruled that Trump and his lawyers cannot introduce evidence or arguments “suggesting or implying” that Trump did not sexually assault Carroll in the dressing room of a luxury Manhattan department store across from Trump Tower in midtown. He also said they cannot say she fabricated her account of the assault or that she had financial and political motivations to do so.

In her letter, Carroll’s lawyer urged Kaplan to require Trump to say under oath in open court but without jurors present that he understands that it has been established for purposes of the trial that he sexually assaulted Carroll and that he spoke falsely with actual malice and lied when he accused her of fabricating her account and impugning her motives.

The judge late Friday denied a request to postpone the trial for one week so Trump can spend next Wednesday and Thursday traveling to and attending the funeral for the mother of his wife, Melania. Kaplan offered his condolences and said Trump is free to attend the “long scheduled” trial, the Florida funeral or “all or parts of both, as he wishes.”

In a written opposition to Trump’s trial adjournment request, Roberta Kaplan noted that Trump announced a campaign event in New Hampshire for next Tuesday after his mother-in-law died despite the trial’s scheduled start on Tuesday. She also said Trump had requested multiple adjournments before last year’s trial and asked that this year’s trial be delayed at least four times.

“There should be no further delay in Mr. Carroll getting her day in court,” she said, although the lawyer recommended that the judge allow Trump to testify after next weekend if he decides to take the stand.

A jury last May awarded Carroll $5 million in damages after concluding that, although there was not sufficient evidence to find Trump raped Carroll, there was proof that she was sexually abused at the Bergdorf Goodman store, and Trump defamed her with statements he made in October 2022.

Because the defamation award was limited to Trump’s fall 2022 statements, a jury next week will begin considering whether Carroll is entitled to additional damages for statements Trump made about her claims while he was president in 2019 and the day after the verdict last spring.

Carroll, 80, testified at last year’s trial that she has suffered emotionally and in her romantic life since Trump attacked her and that his severe denunciation of claims she first made in a 2019 memoir after she was inspired by the #MeToo movement have seriously damaged her career and led to threats against her.

Trump has repeatedly said that he never assaulted Carroll and didn’t know her and that he suspected she was driven to make claims against him to promote her book and for political reasons.

In her letter to the judge Friday, Kaplan cited Trump’s behavior at a state court proceeding Thursday in Manhattan where he ignored a judge’s insistence that he keep remarks focused on trial-related matters, saying: “I am an innocent man” and adding that he was being “persecuted by someone running for office.”

She wrote that Trump’s behavior in state court “provides a potential preview of exactly what we might expect to see at next week’s trial.”

“It takes little imagination to think that Mr. Trump is gearing up for a similar performance here — only this time, in front of a jury,” Kaplan added.

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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