By Jonathan Stempel and Luc Cohen
NEW YORK (Reuters) -A federal judge warned Donald Trump on Wednesday he could be kicked out of writer E. Jean Carroll’s defamation trial if he kept making disparaging comments that the jury could hear.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan’s threat came after a lawyer for Carroll said Trump was talking loudly with his lawyers during testimony by Carroll, who said the president lied by denying in 2019 that he had raped her decades earlier.
Carroll, 80, an Elle magazine advice columnist for 27 years, testified that the former U.S. president destroyed her reputation, and is seeking at least $10 million in damages.
“He said: ‘It is a witch hunt, it really is a con job,'” Shawn Crowley, a lawyer for Carroll, said outside the jury’s presence in federal court in Manhattan. Trump and his lawyers sit two rows behind Carroll’s legal team.
The judge warned Trump to control himself.
“Mr. Trump has the right to be present,” Kaplan said. “That right can be forfeited and it can be forfeited if he is disruptive … and if he disregards court orders.
“Mr. Trump, I hope I don’t have to consider excluding you from the trial,” the judge told him. “I understand you are probably very eager for me to do that.”
Trump, 77, has said he wants to testify in his defense, but is not required to be in court.
He skipped opening statements on Tuesday, to attend a New Hampshire campaign event that night.
Trump’s multiple criminal and civil trials have become a focus of his 2024 White House run, with Trump using his Truth Social platform to criticize Carroll and the judge even after the trial had begun.
Following Kaplan’s warning, Trump posted that Kaplan was a “seething and hostile” judge with “a major case of Trump Derangement Syndrome.”
Trump often uses his legal travails to rally supporters and raise funds as he seeks the Republican presidential nomination, denouncing the cases as part of a political plot.
He has pleaded not guilty in four state and federal criminal cases, including two claiming he tried to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.
Wednesday’s trial arose from two statements in June 2019 in which Trump denied Carroll’s claim that he had raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room.
Trump said he did not know Carroll and that she branded him a rapist to boost sales of her then-new memoir.
Last May, a different jury ordered Trump to pay Carroll $5 million, finding he had sexually abused her and then defamed her in 2022 by denying that anything happened.
Kaplan has ruled that Trump sexually abused Carroll by forcing his fingers into her vagina, and defamed her in 2019, leaving only the question of damages for the nine-person jury.
Carroll testified that Trump’s lies destroyed her reputation for telling the truth, and immediately exposed her to online attacks including death threats.
“I am here because Donald Trump assaulted me, and when I wrote about it, he said it never happened,” Carroll said. “He lied, and it shattered my reputation.”
She fought back tears when her lawyer Roberta Kaplan, who is not related to the judge, showed her a message from an unknown sender suggesting she stick a gun in her mouth and pull the trigger.
Carroll also said she now receives just eight letters a month from readers seeking advice, down from around 200, and that the attacks have not let up.
“Yesterday I opened up Twitter, and it said ‘hey lady, you’re a fraud,'” Carroll said. “Now I’m known as a liar, a fraud and a whack job.”
Asked whether she regretted speaking up, Carroll said: “Only momentarily. I am very glad I took action.”
Twitter is now known as X.
MISTRIAL REQUEST DENIED
Trump’s lawyer Alina Habba tried to show in cross-examining Carroll that the attacks began hours before Trump’s denial, meaning he was not the cause, and that Carroll welcomed the “fame” and attention from supporters and in media appearances.
“It wasn’t fame, it was warmth, and I enjoyed it immensely,” Carroll said.
Carroll told the court she now wants people to understand what she went through.
“I’m 80,” she said. “It’s not right to try to make women be quiet. It has been going on for too long.”
Habba also unsuccessfully requested a mistrial, accusing Carroll of deleting “evidence” after she acknowledged having deleted some emails critical of her going public about Trump.
The cross-examination is scheduled to resume on Thursday.
Trump did not attend Carroll’s first trial, and in his Truth Social post said he would have won had he attended.
He also repeated his wish to attend his mother-in-law’s funeral in Florida on Thursday, and criticized Kaplan’s decision to hold the trial. Trump could still testify next week.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder, Jonathan Oatis and Daniel Wallis)