'You just can't control yourself': Judge threatens to kick Trump out of E. Jean Carroll defamation trial

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NEW YORK — A federal judge threatened to bounce former President Donald Trump from the courtroom Wednesday after a lawyer for E. Jean Carroll said he repeatedly made comments within earshot of the jury at his latest civil defamation trial.

"Mr. Trump, I hope I don't have to consider excluding you from the trial,” Judge Lewis Kaplan told the 2024 Republican presidential frontrunner after Carroll's lawyer complained that the jury could hear him disparaging the former advice columnist's testimony. “I understand you're probably eager for me to do that.”

“I would love it,” Trump growled from the defense table.

“You just can't control yourself in this circumstance, apparently,” Judge Kaplan said.

'I'm known as a liar, a fraud, and a whack job'

Carroll, 80, has claimed Trump, 77, sexually assaulted her in a department store dressing room almost 30 years ago. The trial in lower Manhattan will determine what, if any, damages Trump might owe Carroll after he publicly denied her allegations in 2019 when he was president.

On Wednesday, Carroll told the jury that Trump's attacks in June 2019, after she first went public with her allegations, led to an avalanche of abuse and threats. She said she physically ducked after reading the first emailed death threat. "I thought I was gonna get shot," Carroll said.

More: Jury finds Donald Trump liable in civil sex abuse case of E. Jean Carroll

Carroll's lawyer Roberta Kaplan (no relation to the judge) led her through some of the threats she had received. One said the "penalty for lying about rape should be execution by hanging or firing squad," while another said "stick a gun in your mouth and pull the trigger and send yourself to HELL."

"I spent 50 years building a reputation," Carroll said. "Now I'm known as a liar, a fraud, and a whack job."

Disparaging comments within earshot of the jury

A lawyer for Carroll complained to the judge at a morning break from testimony and again during a lunch break that she could hear Trump making statements that shouldn't be heard by the jury. The attorney, Shawn Crowley, said she overheard Trump say "It is a witch hunt" and "It really is a con job." Some of the jurors, Crowley added, were sitting closer to Trump than she was.

Carroll's team began the morning by calling Carroll herself to the stand, as they make their case that Trump ruined her reputation and caused her to live in fear through his denials of sexually assaulting her.

Even as Trump made a courtroom appearance during jury selection on Tuesday, he continued to attack Carroll on his Truth Social platform as a woman with a "fake story" who is "seeking fame, fortune, and publicity." That behavior was still on display Wednesday, when Trump attended the full day's proceedings. He posted that Carroll's are accusations "false" and the case a "HOAX."

The ongoing attacks could come back to haunt him. Crowley raised them during opening statements Tuesday, saying there were 22 just that day as of her team's last count and jurors should think about how much money it will take to make the "self-proclaimed billionaire" stop.

"It's time to show him no one is above the law," Crowley said.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 8: E. Jean Carroll arrives at Manhattan federal court on May 8, 2023 in New York City. Attorneys for E. Jean Carroll and Donald Trump are set to give closing arguments Monday morning in the battery and defamation trial against the former president in Manhattan federal court. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775975213 ORIG FILE ID: 1253154783

More: No, Trump is not required to register as a sex offender after E. Jean Carroll case | Fact check

Trump's team, for their part, characterized Carroll as an attention-seeker who herself is to blame for the negative attention and threats she's received.

"She wants President Trump to pay for the risks she took," Trump lawyer Alina Habba told the jurors Tuesday. "Her career has prospered and she has been thrust back into the limelight like she always wanted."

What's the case about?

The case ties back to two lengthy denials Trump made while president in 2019 after Carroll came forward publicly with allegations that he raped her in a department store dressing room. Trump called her allegations "a disgrace" and said "people should pay dearly for such false accusations.”

Crowley mirrored Trump's own language when she spoke to the jury on Tuesday, saying it is now his turn to "pay dearly for what he's done."

In May, a jury found Trump liable for sexually abusing Carroll and for defaming her in a 2022 statement calling her a "con job," though it didn't find him liable for rape. He was ordered to pay a combined $5 million.

Donald Trump (left) and E. Jean Carroll (second from left, with then-husband John Johnson) in a photograph Carroll says dates from a 1987 party they attended. Ivana Trump is on the right.
Donald Trump (left) and E. Jean Carroll (second from left, with then-husband John Johnson) in a photograph Carroll says dates from a 1987 party they attended. Ivana Trump is on the right.

More: 'We are not the liars. He is': Trump #MeToo accuser reacts to E. Jean Carroll verdict

Judge Kaplan has ruled Trump isn't allowed to argue to the current jurors that he didn't assault Carroll in light of that May verdict. Instead, the trial is restricted to determining what if any damages he must pay for harm caused by the 2019 statements and to deter Trump from ongoing defamatory attacks against Carroll.

Trump has stated he plans to attend the trial and "explain I don't know who the hell she is." Kaplan denied Trump's request for a delay to the trial in light of funeral arrangements for Melania Trump's mother, but did say Trump could have until Monday to testify even if other aspects of the trial conclude this week.

Trump mistrial request rejected

Carroll testified that she may have deleted threatening messages after the lawsuit began, saying she "didn't know how to handle death threats" and wanted them out of her mind. Habba pointed to it as grounds for a mistrial. "The witness just admitted to deleting emails," Habba said.

Judge Kaplan swiftly denied the request.

It was one of a series of tense exchanges between Habba and the judge. Habba opened the day by asking once again for scheduled proceedings on Thursday to be cancelled in light of funeral arrangements for Melania Trump's mother, even though Judge Kaplan has repeatedly denied that request in recent days.

Judge Kaplan instructed Habba to "please sit down" and she retorted that she didn't like how he was speaking to her. "I'm asking for an adjournment," she said. "It's denied, sit down," he replied.

Judge Kaplan also reproached Habba several times for attempting to introduce evidence improperly and trying to make statements about different laws in front of the jury, such as license requirements for the gun Carroll testified she inherited and keeps near her bed.

In cross-examination that is set to continue on Thursday, Habba asked Carroll about television appearances in which she discussed her allegations against Trump, as well as why Carroll didn't report death threats to the police.

"I'd be calling them constantly to come to my house," Carroll said.

Contributing: Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: E. Jean Carroll's evidence begins in Trump defamation damages trial