Donald Trump has been before a judge in New York for the first time since becoming the only former president of the United States to be charged with a crime.
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In Manhattan criminal court on Tuesday, Trump entered a not guilty plea to 34 felony charges of falsifying company records in connection with three alleged hush-money payments, one of which was allegedly made to adult film star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 campaign.
After an hour-long arraignment, Trump, who waved to the people as he entered the courtroom, was let go.
The next steps and the legal procedure are explained here.
The process of “discovery” began with the former Republican president’s arraignment on Tuesday, during which the indictment against him was formally unsealed.
This is the time frame during which prosecutors allow the defense team access to the evidence that has been gathered by the investigation team against a defendant.
Prosecutors and the defense will be able to submit a number of motions, or requests for the court to rule on certain matters, ahead to a trial. The next hearing in the Trump case is presently scheduled for December 4.
Such motions may include requests to completely drop the charges, objections to particular pieces of evidence, attempts to switch the court’s location, or calls for the judge to be removed, which Trump surrogates have already suggested Trump’s legal team may do.
Because they believe you can’t receive a fair trial in Manhattan, they can petition to change the court’s location, Matthew Galluzzo, a former prosecutor in the New York District Attorney’s office, told the media. Trump is extremely unpopular in Manhattan.
Additionally, Trump has already asserted that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who is in charge of the case, “hand-picked” Judge Juan Merchan because he “hates” him and recently presided over a felony tax fraud trial involving the Trump Organization.
According to the New York state court system, Merchan was chosen at random.
About the 24-member panel that decided there was enough evidence to indict the former president, Galluzzo added, “I can also envision a dismissal petition somehow with respect to the makeup of the grand jury.”
“I predict they’re going to take whatever action they can to put this off as long as they can,” the speaker said.
In criminal proceedings, American judges have the authority to impose a gag order, according to former federal prosecutor Ron Filipkowski. Law experts have stated that might occur at any time in this closely followed case.
Although the breadth of a gag order may vary, Filipkowski explained to the media that it “essentially is a judge saying you cannot, directly or indirectly through third parties, threaten, harass, or intimidate the witnesses engaged in the case, the prosecutors, or the judge.”
Judge Merchan did not issue a gag order on Trump on Tuesday, but he did caution him against doing anything that would incite disturbance or result in violence against a government employee.
Such orders are not common since they may be seen as violating the First Amendment’s rights to free speech.
To stop Trump friend Roger Stone from testifying in public during his federal trial on allegations that he hindered a federal investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign, they have nevertheless been utilized in several high-profile instances.
Initially, Stone was prohibited from discussing the issue or attempting to sway public opinion in the “near proximity” of the court, but the ban was expanded after Stone made threatening remarks about the judge in the case on social media.
That is essentially the first major contentious topic because, clearly, [Trump] is running for president and wants to make this a point, according to Filipkowski. A violation would also probably require Trump to show up in court before the trial and receive a warning or more.
If he disobeys the gag order, “We don’t know what would happen,” Filipkowski added. But his pretrial release could be withdrawn and he could be found in contempt of court.
Although it is possible for Trump to enter a plea agreement with the prosecution and avoid a trial—a move Galluzzo said would almost probably require the former president to acknowledge to at least some guilt—it is generally believed that his legal team would choose to forgo that option.
Following Trump’s arraignment hearing on Tuesday, the Reuters news agency reported that the prosecution intended to push for the trial to commence in January of next year; however, the former president’s legal team recommended a spring 2024 start time.
Although Galluzzo noted that criminal cases frequently progress more quickly than civil matters, there is no set timetable for the processes.
He said, “I assume if this were a regular case, it’s a maybe a year, maybe shorter, maybe five months,” before the trial started. We’re all kind of wondering, as we sit here, “Is this going to happen before the election next year?”
Although Trump’s defense team may opt for a “bench trial,” in which the judge serves as the jury and renders the ultimate decision, Galluzzo predicted that the case will most likely go to a jury.
That strategy would require approval from the prosecution.
A difficult task in such a high-profile case, jury selection would otherwise start prior to a trial and need both the prosecution and the defense to agree on 12 jurors they consider to be impartial.
According to observers, the case may have eye-catching testimony from important witnesses like Daniels and Michael Cohen, the former attorney for Donald Trump. They’ll probably break up long stretches of poring over mountains of banking and financial paperwork.
In March, a lawyer for Daniels tweeted that his client had visited with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and “agreed to make herself accessible as a witness.” Daniels has claimed she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006, a claim the former president rejects.
Former Trump ally and confidant Cohen earlier testified in his own federal tax fraud and evasion trial that the Republican politician ordered him to pay Daniels $130,000 in exchange for her silence. This is another another allegation the politician has publicly denied.
The indictment also included reference to a hush-money payment to a former doorman for Trump Tower and a separate $150,000 payment to a woman who claimed to have a sexual contact with Trump; this woman may have been Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model.
Trump’s decision to testify or not will also be highly scrutinized.
The jury will deliberate and render a decision once both the prosecution and defense have had a chance to relax. They may deliberate for a few hours or for a few weeks.
If found guilty, Trump would possibly be required to spend time in detention before being sentenced, though this will probably depend on how severe the suggested sentence is. Ultimately, a court will determine the sentence, and Trump’s legal team may then file an appeal.
According to New York state law, the defense may ask that a jail sentence be postponed or frozen until the appeals process is complete.
Even if the trial hearings take place during the heated presidential campaign season, Trump, who is running for re-election in 2024, will be legally compelled to attend.
Filipkowski predicted that the study would last three to four weeks. “Trump might spend the entire month of his presidential campaign in court,” a source said.
However, even if found guilty of felony charges, Trump will be allowed to compete for and be elected president of the US as a natural-born US citizen over the age of 35, despite the proceedings or potential jail potentially impeding his candidacy.