Skip to main content

E. Jean Carroll’s case rests after expert reveals defamation damages number in Trump civil rape trial: up to $2.7 million

E Jean Carroll and Donald Trump

E. Jean Carroll and Donald Trump (l-r: AP Photos by Seth Wenig and Evan Vucci)

For the first time in years of litigation, E. Jean Carroll’s legal team finally released an estimate of what they will ask a jury to award their client in defamation damages if they find former President Donald Trump raped her and lied about it: up to $2.7 million.

That figure was calculated by Ashley Humphreys, a professor from Northwestern University’s prestigious Medill journalism school.

Humphreys put that number on the high end of the spectrum for Carroll’s reputational damages from Trump’s Truth Social post panning her accusations as a “hoax” and a “lie.” Humphreys’s lower estimate for Carroll’s reputational damages is $368,183.78, and the precise higher figure is $2,763,107.82.

That is far from the total universe of civil damages Trump may be held liable for if a jury finds in Carroll’s favor.

Former federal prosecutor Mitchell Epner, who now practices media law as a partner of Rottenberg Lipman Rich PC, emphasized that many other categories remain unresolved.

“The testimony from Prof. Humphreys was only defamation damages, what it would cost to buy as much publicity as the Trump statements received,” Epner told Law&Crime. “That does not include any damages for the alleged rape or damages for loss of income due to the adverse publicity.”

Humphreys was not asked to calculate damages for sexual battery under New York’s Adult Survivors Act, which is Carroll’s first cause of action and a subject outside the witness’s realm of expertise. The reputational damages that Humphreys assigned would only go to the subject of compensation.

Carroll also seeks punitive and exemplary damages, as well as “pre-and post-judgment interest, costs, and such other and further relief.”

Her legal team did not specify the total damages they seek in court papers or opening statements.

The revelation is significant, however, as the first glimpse at the potential scope of Trump’s liabilities if he loses. If a jury finds that Trump defamed Carroll by denying that he raped her, it would be difficult for them to avoid finding him responsible for the alleged assault.

Earlier in the day, Carroll’s friend Carol Martin, a local TV anchorwoman, told a jury that she and the “Ask E. Jean” columnist built up their careers on the now-shuttered network America’s Talking. Martin said that they struck up a close friendship during those years, between 1994 and 1996.

During the latter part of that time frame, Carroll claims that Trump sexually assaulted her inside the dressing room of a Bergdorf Goodman store in Manhattan. Carroll said that she told two of her friends nearly immediately, first author Lisa Birnbach and then Martin. Birnbach previously testified that Carroll called her about the alleged encounter within five to seven minutes, describing it as a “fight.”

To her ears, Birnbach said, Carroll’s account of Trump penetrating her with his fingers and penis sounded like “rape.” Birnbach said that she offered to escort Carroll to the police, and Carroll refused. Martin testified that she gave the opposite advice, telling Carroll that Trump would “bury” her through his attorneys.

“I’m not proud that that’s what I told her, in truth,” Martin said.

As Martin tells it, Carroll seemed “agitated” and “anxious” during the disclosure, and though Carroll wasn’t crying, she was visibly upset. Carroll didn’t use the word “rape,” only that Trump “attacked” her, Martin said.

Trump’s legal team argues that Carroll, Birnbach and Martin essentially conspired to tar the former president with rape accusations for political or financial motivations — or both. His attorney Joe Tacopina asked Martin about her longtime disdain for Trump, whose election, Martin once said, left her “devastated.”

But Martin said that she was initially reluctant to be publicly associated with the case.

“It was difficult because people in my family were concerned about identification,” Martin said.

During cross-examination, Tacopina quizzed Martin about her candid texts to her daughter once Carroll stepped forward, opining that the “Ask E. Jean” columnist turned her “quest” into a “lifestyle,” basked in the “adulation” of her supporters and got “in too deep” when she crossed the line into litigation.

Carroll’s attorney Roberta Kaplan, however, indicated that the same text chain corroborates Martin’s account about when her friend told her about the alleged encounter with Trump. Martin authenticated another text marveling about what was wrought by “a simple chat 25 years ago,” saying this alludes to her chat with Carroll about Trump.

Witness testimony ended on Thursday with Carroll’s former boss Roberta Meyers, the editor-in-chief of the Elle brand. Meyers told jurors that Carroll was beloved by her readers — and never told her about her rape allegations against Trump. The ex-Elle chief said that she learned about those claims when the rest of the world did, in an excerpt in New York Magazine.

With her testimony, Carroll and Trump rested their cases. Senior U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan gave Trump an opportunity to request reopening his case if he wants to testify by filing such a request by Sunday at 5 p.m. ET.

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."