Former President Donald J. Trump told a judge Monday night that he could not have defamed E. Jean Carroll by denying her decades-old rape accusation because a jury had found him liable only for sexually abusing her.
His lawyers said in newly filed court papers that Mr. Trump’s denial that he raped Ms. Carroll in the mid-1990s in a Manhattan department store dressing room was truthful. Based on the jury’s verdict last month after a two-week civil trial, they argued, Ms. Carroll’s defamation claim must fail.
“The operative question in this case is, and has always been, whether a rape occurred in the Bergdorf Goodman dressing room,” wrote Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Alina Habba and Michael T. Madaio, referring to the department store. The jury “found that one did not,” they added.
A civil jury last month found Mr. Trump, 76, liable for sexually abusing Ms. Carroll — less serious misconduct than rape — and for defaming her when he called her case “a complete con job” and “a Hoax and a lie” last October.
The jury awarded Ms. Carroll $5 million in damages, and soon after the verdict, Mr. Trump made similar disparaging comments in a CNN program and on social media. Ms. Carroll, 79, asked the judge to punish him further in a parallel case that is still open before him.
Mr. Trump’s new court filing came in that case, which Ms. Carroll had filed in 2019. In it, she accused Mr. Trump of defaming her after she publicly disclosed the attack for the first time, in a New York magazine article. At the time, Mr. Trump called her accusation “totally false,” and said he could not have raped her because she was not his “type.” That 2019 defamation lawsuit has been tied up in appeals and is still pending.
Ms. Carroll’s lead lawyer, Roberta A. Kaplan, said in a statement Monday evening that nothing about the verdict in the recent trial was inconsistent with Ms. Carroll’s longstanding claim.
“The jury unanimously found that Donald Trump forcibly inserted his fingers into E. Jean Carroll’s vagina and then lied about it, defaming her when he said that he did not know who she was, had never met her at Bergdorf Goodman, and that she had made the whole thing up as part of a ‘con job’ or a ‘hoax,’” Ms. Kaplan said.
She added: “The jury believed E. Jean Carroll when she testified that Trump sexually abused her. As a result, the jury concluded that Trump knowingly lied about Ms. Carroll when he claimed otherwise.”
The recent trial arose from a lawsuit Ms. Carroll filed against Mr. Trump last November under a new state law in New York that grants adult sexual abuse victims a one-year window to sue people they say abused them for battery, even if the statute of limitations had long expired.
The jury on May 9 awarded Ms. Carroll damages of $2 million for the sexual abuse and $3 million for the defamation. Mr. Trump is appealing the verdict.
Mr. Trump, who is seeking to regain the presidency, continued to verbally attack Ms. Carroll. On May 10, he appeared on CNN and, in response to a moderator’s questions, said he had never met Ms. Carroll, mocked her account as “fake” and said the trial was “a rigged deal.”
Ms. Carroll’s lawyers then filed court papers asking a judge to allow them to revise the separate and earlier defamation lawsuit that Ms. Carroll had filed against Mr. Trump — sometimes referred to in court papers as Carroll I.
Both Carroll I and the more recent suit that went to trial, known as Carroll II, have been before the same judge, Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court.
Ms. Carroll’s lawyers said they were seeking to include in the Carroll I lawsuit the fact of the jury’s verdict in Carroll II as well as Mr. Trump’s statements on CNN.
“Trump’s defamatory statements post-verdict show the depth of his malice toward Carroll since it is hard to imagine defamatory conduct that could possibly be more motivated by hatred, ill will or spite,” Ms. Carroll’s lawyers wrote.
They said Mr. Trump’s conduct supported a “very substantial” punitive damages award in the still-open Carroll I case “to punish Trump, to deter him from engaging in further defamation and to deter others from doing the same.”
The Carroll I lawsuit had been mired in appeals after Mr. Trump argued that he could not be sued because he made his statements in his official capacity as president. He repeated the statements last year when he was no longer president, giving rise to Carroll II.
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