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Trump's lawyers seek to suspend $83M defamation verdict, citing 'strong probability' it won't stand

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s lawyers asked a New York judge Friday to suspend an $83.3 million defamation verdict against the former president, saying there was a “strong probability” that it would be reduced on appeal, if not eliminated.

The lawyers made the request in Manhattan federal court, where a civil jury in late January awarded the sum to advice columnist E. Jean Carroll after a five-day trial that focused only on damages. A judge had ordered the jury to accept the findings of another jury that last year concluded Trump sexually abused Carroll in 1996 and defamed her in 2022.

The second jury focused only on statements Trump made in 2019 while he was president in a case long delayed by appeals.

In the filing Friday, Trump's lawyers wrote that Judge Lewis A. Kaplan should suspend the execution of a judgment he issued on Feb. 8 until a month after he resolves Trump's post-trial motions, which will be filed by March 7. Otherwise, they said, he should grant a partially secured stay that would require Trump to post a bond for a fraction of the award.

The lawyers said the $65 million punitive award, atop $18.3 in compensatory damages, was “plainly excessive” because it violates the Constitution and federal common law.

“There is a strong probability that the disposition of post-trial motions will substantially reduce, if not eliminate, the amount of the judgment,” they said.

Trump did not attend a trial last May when a Manhattan jury awarded Carroll $5 million after concluding that the real estate magnate sexually attacked Carroll in spring 1996 in the dressing room of a luxury Bergdorf Goodman store across the street from Trump Plaza in midtown Manhattan.

Since Carroll, 80, first made her claims public in a memoir in 2019, Trump, 77, has repeatedly derided them as lies made to sell her book and damage him politically. He has called her a “whack job” and said that she wasn't “his type,” a reference that Carroll testified was meant to suggest she was too ugly to rape.

Carroll also testified that she has faced death threats from Trump supporters and has had her reputation shattered after remarks Trump continued to make even as the trial was going on.

At the second trial, Trump attended regularly and briefly testified, though he did most of his communication with the jury through frequent shakes of his head and disparaging comments muttered loudly enough that a prosecutor complained that jurors surely heard them and the judge threatened to banish him from the courtroom.

Roberta Kaplan, a lawyer for Carroll and no relation to the judge, declined comment Friday.

Alina Habba, one of Trump's attorneys, said in a statement that January's jury award was “egregiously excessive.”

“The Court must exercise its authority to prevent Ms. Carroll's (sic) from enforcing this absurd judgment, which will not withstand appeal,” Habba said.

Since the January verdict, a state court judge in New York in a separate case has ordered Trump and his companies to pay $355 million in penalties for a yearslong scheme to dupe banks and others with financial statements that inflated his wealth. With interest, he owes the state nearly $454 million.

Larry Neumeister, The Associated Press