Trump again demands mistrial in E. Jean Carroll defamation case

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Donald Trump on Friday renewed his request for a mistrial in E. Jean Carroll's defamation case, after she admitted to destroying emailed death threats she received after first accusing the former U.S. president of rape.

In a letter to U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan, Trump's lawyer Alina Habba said Carroll's actions "severely prejudices the President Trump's defense (sic) since he has been deprived of critical information relating to critical evidence which Plaintiff has described to the jury."

Kaplan had rejected the same request on Wednesday, during Carroll's testimony.

A spokesman for Carroll declined to comment.

Carroll, 80, a former Elle magazine advice columnist, has accused Trump, 77, of raping her in the mid-1990s in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in Manhattan.

She is seeking at least $10 million for damage to her reputation over two statements that Trump made in June 2019, while he was president, in which he denied that anything happened and said Carroll made up the incident to boost sales of her memoir.

Under cross-examination by Habba on Wednesday, Carroll acknowledged she had thought deleting death threats was "was the smartest, best, quickest way to get it out of my life." She said it was "probably 2023" when the deletions stopped.

Habba said the deletions violated a federal rule governing the preservation of emails needed during litigation.

She said that absent a mistrial, Kaplan should prevent Carroll from seeking damages related to death threats, or instruct jurors to hold the email destruction against her.

In seeking a mistrial on Wednesday, Habba had told the judge: "Your Honor, at this moment, I feel I have to ask for a mistrial. The witness has just admitted to deleting evidence herself, which are part of her claim of damages, and I haven't seen them. She has no evidence of them. She hasn't turned them over."

Kaplan responded: "Denied. The jury will disregard everything Ms. Habba just said."

A different jury last May ordered Trump to pay Carroll $5 million for defamation and sexual abuse, after he similarly denied her accusations in October 2022.

Kaplan has said those findings apply to the current trial, leaving only the issue of damages for the nine-person jury.

The trial has lasted three days. It will resume on Monday, and Trump may testify.

Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination and in the party's second nominating contest, the New Hampshire primary, which will be held on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Luc Cohen in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)