Donald Trump Becomes First Former US President To Be Convicted Of Crimes In Hush Money Case

Donald Trump Becomes First Former US President To Be Convicted Of Crimes In Hush Money Case

He faces a range of sentences from probation or a fine to prison sentences of as many as four years for each of the 34 charges.

IANSUpdated: Friday, May 31, 2024, 08:22 AM IST
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New York: Former US President Donald Trump Found Guilty Of Fraud; Barred From Business For 5 Years | File pic

In a historic verdict that could impact the presidential elections with reverberations around the world. Donald Trump, who is in the middle of a campaign to reclaim the White House, has become the first former President to be convicted of crimes.

The verdict came on Thursday from a jury of 12 ordinary citizens -- seven men and five women -- who convicted Trump on 34 criminal charges relating to hush money paid before the 2016 election to buy the silence of a porn star who alleged that they had had a sexual tryst.

US laws, however, do not prevent him from running for President or getting elected. Of the four criminal cases pending against him, this is the first to conclude with a verdict before the November election and the others may be delayed. Trump was charged with falsifying business records to cover up the hush money payments by showing them on his company ledgers as legal expenses paid to his lawyer Michael Cohen, an offence under New York state laws.

Trump could still stay out and campaign after conviction

He faces a range of sentences from probation or a fine to prison sentences of as many as four years for each of the 34 charges. Even if he is sentenced to prison, he could still stay out and campaign with an appeal to a higher court which is most likely. Leaving the court, Trump said, "This was a disgrace. This was a rigged trial by a conflicted judge who was corrupt."

"This is long from over," he added. Judge Juan Merchan, who presided over the case, set the sentencing for July 11, just four days before the Republican Party Convention that is expected to formally declare him its candidate for President as he has won an overwhelming majority of the delegates in the primaries, the intra-party elections.

Trump said the real verdict will be in November when the presidential elections are held. A poll sponsored by the government-subsidised Public Broadcasting Service showed that 67 per cent of voters said his conviction would not influence their vote; among independents, it was 74 per cent.

Trump is evenly matched in polls with President Joe Biden, with less than 1 per cent lead in the aggregation of polls by RealClear Politics and even a small percentage of voters switching away from him could sway the outcome.

Biden campaign's Spokesperson Michael Tyler said, "There is still only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: at the ballot box. Convicted felon or not, Trump will be the Republican nominee for president." Trump for now carries the taint of criminal conviction, a boon for Biden's campaign. Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Johnson, a Republican, said, "Today is a shameful day in American history."

He said, "The weaponisation of our justice system has been a hallmark of the Biden Administration, and the decision today is further evidence that Democrats will stop at nothing to silence dissent and crush their political opponents." In New York, the local prosecutors are elected in partisan elections and Alvin Bragg won as a Democrat with the indirect backing of groups linked to the controversial international political financier George Soros.

Bragg's predecessor and federal prosecutors had declined to prosecute Trump on business records falsification charges. This court victory puts a national spotlight on the local prosecutor, who has come for criticism for being lenient towards violent criminals. Falsifying business record is a non-criminal minor offence, a misdemeanour, but Bragg raised it to a criminal offence by asserting that it was a "conspiracy" to promote another crime, election interference. Even though Trump was not charged with it, Bragg maintained that buying Stormy Daniels' silence amounted to election interference because it suppressed a scandal that could have adversely affected him at the polls.

High drama that included salacious tidbits punctuated the trial. Stormy Daniels, the porn star, testified on the witness stand about the sexual position they allegedly adopted. Trump's former lawyer and fixer Cohen, the prosecution's star witness after falling out with Trump, said in court that he stole $30,000 from Trump and admitted to having lied under oath.

Trump's lawyers hammered these admissions to the jury to dent his credibility, but apparently they were not swayed. Trump made personal allegations against Merchan, his family and witnesses prompting the judge to impose fines and to threaten him with jail if he continued the attacks. Undeterred, Trump continued the attacks.

If Trump gets a prison sentence and is denied bail and ordered to prison there will be the unusual scenario of Secret Service agents accompanying him there as by law he has to have their protection. Of the other cases, the one accusing him of conspiring to change the election results in Georgia is caught up in a controversy over the prosecutor having an affair with one of the lawyers she hired with a payment of $650,000 to help prosecute the case even though he did not have experience in the matter.

The federal case in Washington is centered on the riots when his supporters invaded the Capitol in January 2021 and he is charged with trying to prevent Congress from certifying the election of President Joe Biden. That case is held up while the Supreme Court considers an appeal from Trump that he has presidential immunity from those charges.

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