Former US President Donald Trump sits in New York State Supreme Court during the civil fraud trial against the Trump Organization, in New York City on January 11, 2024. Trump's legal team will deliver closing arguments January 11 in the fraud case after the judge barred the former president from using the trial finale as an election campaign grandstand. Image Credit: AFP

New York: Donald Trump walked out of a courtroom on Friday as a lawyer for E. Jean Carroll tried to convince jurors that Trump should pay tens of millions of dollars in damages for defaming her and denying he raped the writer.

Trump left as Carroll's lawyer Roberta Kaplan told jurors they should punish the former U.S. president for persistently lying about her client, a former Elle magazine advice columnist, and destroying her reputation as a responsible journalist.

"We all have to follow the law," Kaplan told jurors in her closing argument in federal court in Manhattan. "Donald Trump, however, acts as if these rules and laws just don't apply to him.

"This trial is about getting him to stop, once and for all," she added.

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A lawyer for Trump will make a closing argument shortly. Jurors are expected to begin deliberations later on Friday.

Carroll, 80, has accused Trump of raping her in the mid-1990s in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in Manhattan, and defaming her in June 2019 by calling her a liar after she wrote about the encounter in her memoir.

She testified that Trump's comments caused her to be subjected to continuous attacks, including death threats, that have yet to abate.

Trump, 77, has accused Carroll of making up the encounter to boost book sales. His lawyers have argued that Carroll doesn't deserve any money, and actually sought fame and adulation by coming forward.

Another jury last May ordered Trump to pay Carroll $5 million over a similar denial in October 2022, finding that Trump had defamed and sexually abused her.

Wealth and power

Because that verdict is binding for the current trial, the seven-man, two-woman jury need decide only how much Trump owes Carroll for harming her reputation, and whether to impose punitive damages to stop him from defaming her again.

Trump has continued attacking Carroll during the trial, proclaiming that her case was a "witch hunt" and a "con job" and that he had not known her.

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A damages expert testified that the harm Trump caused to Carroll's reputation alone amounted to $7.3 million to $12.1 million.

Carroll is seeking at least $10 million, but Kaplan told jurors they could award "much more," and that an "unusually high" punitive damages award might be necessary to deter Trump, a billionaire.

"Donald Trump is prepared to use his wealth and power to defame people whenever he wants," Kaplan said. "While Donald Trump may not care about the law, while he certainly does not care about truth, he does care about money."

Lost opportunities

Trump, a Republican, is seeking to retake the White House in the November election in a likely showdown against Democrat Joe Biden, who beat him in 2020.

On Thursday, Trump spent only four minutes defending himself on the witness stand after U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who is not related to Carroll's lawyer, forbade him and his lawyers from revisiting issues that the first trial had settled.

Trump was allowed to confirm his October 2022 deposition testimony, which jurors had been shown, in which he called Carroll's claims a "hoax" and said she was "mentally sick." Carroll had written the "Ask E. Jean" column for Elle from 1993 to 2019, and often appeared on such programs as NBC's "Today" and ABC's "Good Morning America." She said those appearances dried up after Trump called her a liar, and that his denials led her to be bombarded with online death threats and other attacks that have yet to stop.

Lawyers for Trump have said it was Carroll's accusations and not Trump's denials that prompted the attacks, saying the attacks began even before the former president said anything.

The 2024 presidential race is expected to be close even though Trump faces 91 felony counts in four separate criminal indictments, including two cases accusing him of trying to illegally overturn his 2020 election loss.

Trump has tried to make his legal travails a campaign asset, claiming he is a victim of biased prosecutors, plaintiffs like Carroll, and an unfair judicial system.