Advertisement

Trump found guilty on all counts in hush money trial

Donald Trump has become the first US president to be convicted of a crime after a New York jury found him guilty of falsifying documents to cover up a payment to silence a porn star ahead of the 2016 election.

May 31, 2024, updated May 31, 2024
Former US President Donald Trump walks out of the courtroom at the conclusion of his hush money trial in Manhattan. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Pool via REUTERS

Former US President Donald Trump walks out of the courtroom at the conclusion of his hush money trial in Manhattan. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Pool via REUTERS

After deliberations over two days, the 12-member jury announced on Thursday it had found Trump guilty on all 34 counts he faced. Unanimity was required for any verdict.

Trump watched the jurors dispassionately as they were polled to confirm the guilty verdict.

Justice Juan Merchan set sentencing for July 11, three days before the start of the Republican National Convention expected to formally nominate Trump for president.

Merchan thanked the jurors for their service. “Nobody can make you do anything you don’t want to do. The choice is yours,” Merchan said.

The verdict plunges the United States into unexplored territory ahead of the November 5 presidential election, when Trump, the Republican candidate, will try to win the White House back from Democratic President Joe Biden.

Trump, 77, has denied wrongdoing and was expected to appeal.

“This was a disgrace. This was a rigged trial by a conflicted judge who is corrupt,” Trump told reporters afterwards.

“The real verdict is going to be November 5 by the people,” Trump said, adding: “I am a very innocent man.”

He faces a maximum sentence of four years in prison, though others convicted of that crime often receive shorter sentences, fines or probation. Incarceration would not prevent him from campaigning, or taking office if he were to win.

Opinion polls show Trump and Biden, 81, locked in a tight race, and Reuters/Ipsos polling has found that a guilty verdict could cost Trump some support from independent and Republican voters.

The jury notified the court they had reached a verdict at 4.20pm on Thursday and read out all 34 guilty counts shortly after 5pm.

Trump’s fellow Republicans quickly condemned the verdict. “Today is a shameful day in American history,” House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson said in a prepared statement.

The jury found Trump guilty of falsifying business documents after sitting through a five-week trial that featured explicit testimony from porn star Stormy Daniels about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump in 2006 while he was married to his current wife Melania. Trump denies ever having sex with Daniels.

Trump’s then-fixer Michael Cohen testified that Trump approved a $US130,000 ($A196,000) hush money payment to Daniels in the final weeks of the 2016 election, when he faced multiple accusations of sexual misbehaviour.

Cohen testified he handled the payment, and that Trump approved a plan to reimburse him through monthly payments disguised as legal work. Trump’s lawyers hammered Cohen’s credibility, highlighting his criminal record and imprisonment and his history of lying.

Falsifying business documents is normally a misdemeanour in New York, but prosecutors in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office elevated it to a felony on grounds that Trump was concealing an illegal campaign contribution.

Trump complained that he could not get a fair trial in his heavily Democratic hometown.

The case was widely regarded as the least consequential of the four criminal prosecutions Trump faces. Jurors heard testimony of sex and lies that have been public since 2018, although the charges themselves rested on ledger accounts and other records of Cohen’s reimbursement.

It was known as the “zombie case” because Bragg brought it back to life after his predecessor opted not to bring charges.

This case was also likely to be the only one to go to trial before the election, as the others are delayed by procedural challenges.

If elected, Trump could shut down the two federal cases that accuse him of illegally trying to overturn his 2020 election loss and mishandling classified documents after leaving office in 2021. He would not have the power to stop a separate election-subversion case taking place in Georgia.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in all the cases, and has portrayed his various legal troubles as an effort by Biden’s Democratic allies to hurt him politically.

The key questions answered

WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

InDaily in your inbox. The best local news every workday at lunch time.
By signing up, you agree to our User Agreement andPrivacy Policy & Cookie Statement. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The judge presiding over the case, Juan Merchan, must first approve the verdict and enter a final judgment, though this is typically a formality.

Criminal defendants in New York are typically sentenced within several weeks of conviction, but post-verdict legal wrangling can sometimes lead to months of delays. In the meantime, lawyers and prosecutors will recommend sentences and then argue over them at Trump’s sentencing hearing, where Merchan will make a decision.

WILL TRUMP GO TO PRISON?

That is unlikely.

The maximum sentence for Trump’s crime of falsifying business records is 16 months to four years in prison.

It is rare for people with no criminal history who are convicted only of falsification of business records to be sentenced to prison in New York. Punishments like fines or probation are more common.

Defendants convicted of falsifying business records who get sentenced to time behind bars typically serve a year or less, and even in those cases most were convicted of other crimes such as fraud or grand larceny – unlike Trump

If punished beyond a fine, Trump could be placed under home confinement or subject to a curfew rather than imprisoned.

As a former president, he has a lifetime Secret Service detail, and the logistics of keeping him safe behind bars could be complicated.

Trump could also be released on bail while appealing his conviction.

CAN TRUMP APPEAL THE CONVICTION?

Yes. Trump is likely to make arguments that Merchan rejected ahead of trial, including that the indictment is legally flawed and politically motivated. He is also likely to argue Merchan deprived him of a fair trial by making legal errors, including allowing salacious testimony by a porn star who said she had sex with Trump – testimony his lawyers said was gratuitous and aimed at inflaming the jury against him.

The defence is likely to argue that the charges themselves were legally improper. Falsifying business records on its own is a misdemeanour in New York, but is elevated to a felony when done to help commit or conceal another crime. In this case, Bragg’s office said that other crime was a conspiracy to violate a state election law.

But Trump’s lawyers have argued that state law does not apply to federal elections.

COULD TRUMP STILL BE PRESIDENT?

Yes. The US Constitution only requires that presidents be at least 35 years old and natural-born US citizens who have lived in the country for 14 years.

In theory, Trump could be sworn in from jail or prison on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2025, if he were to unseat Biden.

– Reuters

Local News Matters
Advertisement
Copyright © 2024 InDaily.
All rights reserved.