Just minutes after New York writer E. Jean Carroll’s lawyer started her closing arguments in a high-stakes defamation trial against Donald Trump, the former president abruptly got up and stalked out of the courtroom Friday.
He left after Carroll’s lawyer told a jury that he continued to defame the former Elle magazine columnist and acted “as if the laws don’t apply to him”.
Trump’s departure drew the ire of US District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who noted for the record that Trump had left and ordered his lawyers to remain in place.
Jurors in the case are set to determine how much Trump has to pay in damages for defaming Carroll when he denied her claim that he had sexually assaulted her in a Manhattan department store in 1996.
Trump’s exit was not even the first conflict of the day. He and his main lawyer, Alina Habba, arrived late to court, which the judge sternly noted for the record. Habba then clashed with the judge before the jury was brought in, after he excluded a piece of evidence she wanted to include in her closing argument.
“Excuse me, you are not using that slide, period!” the judge said. When Habba stood to argue, the judge angrily threatened to put her behind bars if she persisted.
“Ms Habba! You are on the verge of spending time in the lock-up,” the judge said. “Sit down.”
Habba sat down and spoke with Trump quietly. Both appeared to be fuming, and the former president left shortly after. Trump did not return for at least 45 minutes as Carroll’s lawyer finished her summation. He came back to listen to his lawyer’s closing statements.
Carroll’s lawyer Roberta Kaplan, who is not related to the judge, told jurors in her closing statements Trump had triggered a “tsunami” of threats from his followers and “inspired a hateful mob” when he lashed out against Carroll in statements issued from the White House in June 2019.
The judge has already ruled Trump defamed Carroll, leaving it to the jury to decide on damages.
“In this court and in our justice system you follow the law,” Roberta Kaplan said. “That’s how it’s supposed to work, even if you don’t like it, you’re supposed to follow the rules. It doesn’t depend on your politics,” she said.
“Donald Trump acts as if these rules and laws don’t apply to him.”
Roberta Kaplan told jurors that after Trump was found liable for sexually abusing Carroll, he “doubled down” and continued to attack the writer on social media. He even did so after he left the courtroom last week, she said.
“This case is about punitive damages for what he has done and what he continues to do,” Roberta Kaplan said.
“It’s about punishing him for the malicious nature of his attacks of her in 2019 and, right up to and including this trial.” she said.
“This trial is about getting him to stop once and for all.”
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