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In defamation case, judge threatens to remove Trump from courtroom

By Doug Cunningham & Mike Heuer
Former President Donald J. Trump arrives at 40 Wall Street after listening to E. Jean Carroll testify in federal court during her civil defamation damages hearing him in New York City on Wednesday. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
1 of 6 | Former President Donald J. Trump arrives at 40 Wall Street after listening to E. Jean Carroll testify in federal court during her civil defamation damages hearing him in New York City on Wednesday. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 17 (UPI) -- After a contentious exchange in the courtroom on Wednesday, a federal judge denied former President Donald Trump's request for his recusal from a defamation case brought by author E. Jean Carroll.

Southern District of New York Judge Lewis Kaplan issued a one-word ruling of "denied" after the court reconvened after a lunch break, ABC News reported. Trump's legal team had sought Kaplan's recusal after accusing him of being hostile to the former president.

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Carroll took the stand Wednesday in the second day of a trial to determine how much damages the former president owes for making defamatory statements against her.

Trump attorney Michael Madaio said Carroll's attorney Shawn Crowley is one of Kaplan's former law clerks and Kaplan did not allow the defense team to respond to accusations that Trump had made comments during the morning's proceedings. Madaio also complained after Kaplan accused Trump of being incapable of controlling himself in the courtroom, CNN reported.

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During the morning court proceedings, Kaplan threatened to remove Trump from the courtroom after Carroll's legal team complained Trump was making loud statements that the jury might hear.

Carroll's attorney Crowley twice complained Trump made comments including, "It's a witch hunt" and called the proceedings a "con job," ABC News reported. While showing the jury and court a video of Trump allegedly defaming Carroll, Crowley claimed Trump said, "It's true."

Kaplan didn't remove Trump from the courtroom but told his defense team Trump has the right to be in the courtroom -- but that right can be forfeited if he is disruptive.

Kaplan said he hopes he won't have to exclude Trump from the trial and added, "I understand you are probably very eager for me to do that," CNN reported.

Trump responded by saying, "I would love it." Kaplan said he agreed that Trump would love it because he can't control his actions.

Earlier, Carroll told the courtroom, with Trump present, that the former president repeatedly spread lies about her since she came forward in 2019, accusing him of sexually assaulting her in 1996.

"I'm here because I was assaulted by Donald Trump and when I wrote about it, he said it never happened. He lied. And he shattered my reputation," Carroll said from the witness stand Wednesday.

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Carroll said she expected Trump to claim the encounter was consensual but her attorney Shawn Crowley, noted that "he went much, much further," denying that he ever met her at all and lodging further allegations against her.

"He said I made up an accusation to sell a book, that is a lie. He said I made an accusation for publicity, that is a lie. He said my false accusation damaged the real victims of sexual assault, that is a lie," Carroll said.

She noted that Trump's statements were particularly impactful because they were made while he was president.

"The thing that really got me about this is from the White House, he asked if anyone has any information about me, and if they did, to please come forward as soon as possible, because he wanted the world to know what's really going on and that people like me should pay dearly," Carroll said.

When asked by Crowley if she had paid dearly, Carrol responded that she has "paid as dearly as possible" noting that Trump's comments "instantaneously" led her to face harassment from his supporters and "ended the world I had been living in."

"I receive them all the time, sometimes hundreds a day," she said.

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"I just want my reputation back."

Crowley told the court Wednesday that Trump's comments about Carroll have not stopped, even while he was present in the courtroom.

"He sat in this courthouse this morning. And while he was sitting there, he posted more defamatory statements, more lies about Ms. Carroll and this case," Crowley said. "By our count, by our last count, 22 posts just today. Think about that. Think about that when you consider how much money will it take to get him to stop."

Crowley also said that Trump on Wednesday could be heard "loudly saying things" about Carroll's testimony, including claiming it was false and saying "she's gotten her memory back," noting that the jury may have been able to hear it.

The New York federal court jury is deciding how much more money in damages Trump will have to pay for further defaming her following a $5 million defamation verdict against him in an earlier case she brought.

A federal judge ruled in June 2023 that Carroll could file an amendment to her complaint and request an award of an additional $10 million.

Trump denies the attack and his attorney Alina Habba said Carroll's reputation wasn't harmed because she gained more fame and notoriety than she could ever have dreamed of because of Trump's statements.

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Habba accused Carroll of looking for a windfall because of mean things said about her on social media. Habba said Carroll had "prospered since the sexual assault allegations."

Crowley said Carroll is afraid that someday somebody will make good on Trump's threats against her.

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