In case you missed it earlier this week, I had some thoughts on two ongoing civil trials as one wrapped up summations and the other entered the trial phase. Outside of their political implications, looking just at the filings themselves, I am fascinated by the complexity of these cases and the path they are taking through the American justice system.
I also posted about the character of Mickey Mouse and the 1928 Disney animated short, "Steamboat Willie," entering the public domain at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve.
The New York Fraud trial ran for about 11 weeks while the Carroll Defamation case will be done in less than two. That's not much time, but each of these cases also required years of discovery and motion practice before reaching the courtroom and each will likely go through at least a year of appeals after the verdicts come down.
I predicted combined verdicts for these two cases in the mid-nine-figure range plus a range of equitable restrictions on Trump doing future business in the state of New York. The cable news networks will go into hype mode but, regardless of the punditry and spin, these eye-popping numbers are about what we'd expect.
In the New York Fraud case, the AG's office has identified $370 million in Trump Organization profits that were obtained in fraudulent transactions. For each of those transactions, if the court determines the fraud to have been intentional and material, those ill-gotten profits will be subject to disgorgement up to that full amount, plus interest.
The sixteen categories of fraud alleged by the AG and confirmed by the court before the trial are illustrated in my new book, Fraud: The Art of the Steal. The book has been stealth-launched and should be available at additional booksellers including Amazon shortly.
In the second Carroll Defamation case to come to trial, jury findings of Trump's liability for sexual assault and defamation from the first trial will apply as factually determined. The only issue before the court will be determining the damages.
The plaintiff is asking for $10 million in reputational damage, infliction of emotional distress, and punitive damages. Since that ask was first made, Trump's former attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was hit with a $148 million jury verdict in a defamation case against two Georgia election workers. Juries are notoriously unpredictable, and the two cases are unrelated, but the floor on Trump-related defamation may be trending upward.
My updated thoughts on the trial so far...
The lead attorney who represented Trump in the previous case has fired his client and is not available to participate in this trial. There's no live feed from the federal courtroom where the Carroll Defamation case is taking place, but reports so far have focused on the inexperience of Trump's current defense team in the procedure and etiquette of federal trial practice.
The main strategy of Trump's legal team has been to blame the victim. When Carroll testified about the emotional impact of death threats she received after Trump's defamatory remarks, Trump's attorney focused on how irresponsible Carroll was to have deleted some of those death threats instead of preserving them as evidence. When Carroll testified that she now needed to sleep within reach of a gun to feel safe, Trump's attorney focused on whether the gun was properly registered.
Jurors have been made aware that Trump has continued to make defamatory remarks against Carroll even during the trial. Trump has reportedly been admonished by the court for muttering under his breath loud enough for jury members to hear. Jurors have been asked by Carroll's attorney to consider how much of a verdict it would take for Trump to stop making defamatory statements against Carroll. I have to believe that number is going up as the trial proceeds.
It seems counterproductive to me for Trump to present a jury with inexperienced counsel, ongoing defamation, and outrageous courtroom antics. If I were politically minded, I might suspect that he's actively trying to pump up the verdict, perhaps to use as fodder for fundraising and campaigning.
Trump is scheduled to take the stand in his defense on Monday, something he didn't do in the first Carroll Defamation trial. His testimony is not mandated or compelled and will be constrained by the rules of the court. Trump has been known to cancel such testimony at the last minute, as he did in the New York Fraud trial, rather than subject himself to cross-examination under oath.
It's now possible for anyone to release newly public domain "Steamboat Willie" cartoons and related media into the world, as long as you don't step on Disney's ongoing copyrights and trademarks.
Some derivative Mickeys are questionable, but the one I recommend is Randy Milholland's Mousetrapped webcomic. With Randy's talent, passion, and knowledge of early cartoons, this project is sure to succeed.
I also provided a free digital collectible version of "Steamboat Willie" as an antidote for all the cash-grab Mickeys that have popped up on OpenSea. It's a fun artifact to grab to mark a moment in history.
So far, 132 have been claimed and I'm planning to close the mint at the end of the month. "Free Willie" is the earliest ownable non-Disney release of "Steamboat Willie" that I've been able to locate for whatever historic value that might have.
I'm going to be releasing more of these fun digital artifacts through the Cent platform throughout the year. Collectors gain the ability to leave comments, and people have been celebrating their love for Mickey Mouse, the creativity of Walt Disney and Disney Studios animator Ub Iwerks, and the fact that creative works and characters eventually become generally available as building blocks for new creators to play with.
If you don't have a digital wallet to drop this cartoon into, you can collect it with an email address.
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