For the first time in U.S. history, a current or former American president has been charged with a crime. On April 4, 2023, former president Donald J. Trump was officially charged with 34 crimes.
What led to the unprecedented charges? What are the 34 alleged crimes, and what happens next?
What Is Trump Accused Of Doing?
The case against Donald J. Trump is tied to three primary events.
Trump is said to have engaged in “catch-and-kill” schemes in which he, along with his attorneys and American Media Inc., the company which publishes the National Enquirer, transferred money between individuals and organizations to prevent the release of damaging information about Trump.
The case focuses on three instances of catch-and-kill schemes, as reported by NPR.
- One instance relates to $30,000 paid to a former Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about a child that Trump had allegedly fathered outside of his marriage.
- Another instance relates to $150,000 paid to former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal who claimed to have an affair with Trump while he was married.
- Lastly, and most notably, another instance relates to $130,000 paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels who also claimed to have an affair with Trump while he was married. The payment was made in October 2016 just before the election.
So, why are these payments illegal?
What Is Trump Charged With?
The payments are seen as illegal by the New York district attorney’s office because the transactions were not properly recorded. The payments appear to be entered as false business records.
In New York, falsifying business records is a crime defined in Article 175 of the New York Penal Law.
Falsifying business records is a misdemeanor. The action is elevated to a felony if the falsifying business records was done with the intent “to commit another crime or to aid or conceal the commission thereof.”
Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.
Trump’s charges were elevated to a felony because prosecutors in New York say Trump falsified business records to cover up other crimes. They believe the records were altered to cover up campaign and election crimes such as illegally promoting a candidate and exceeding the federal campaign contribution cap.
Each of the 34 counts is for a violation of the same law.
Each count refers to a document that has been falsified, such as each instance of a false entry in a general ledger or a signed check.
Trump plead not guilty to all 34 charges.
What Are the Potential Consequences?
In New York, felony bookkeeping fraud can be punishable by up to four years in prison for each count. Each sentence could be completed consecutively, one after another.
But, the charge also does not carry a mandatory prison sentence.
According to The Washington Post, experts believe Trump would be unlikely to serve prison time even if convicted since he has no prior record — and is a former American President running for office again.
What Happens Next?
Now that Trump has been officially charged, the next step in the legal process is discovery, per reporting by The New York Times.
During the discovery phase, the district attorney’s office must turn over most of the evidence they have to Trump’s team.
The next deadline in the case is August 8. At that time, Trump’s attorney must file any motions related to the case. Trump’s team says they plan to file a motion to dismiss. A motion to dismiss, if granted by a judge, would throw the case out. They also plan to file a motion for a change of venue as they say Trump won’t be able to get a fair trial in New York City.
Once the motions are filed, prosecutors have until September 19 to respond.
During a hearing on December 4, the judge will rule on all motions.
If the case goes to trial, prosecutors say it would take place in early January 2024. Trump’s team says that is not enough time and wants it to be later in the spring of 2024.
Everyone Is Equal In the Eye of the Law
Whether you are a former president of the United States or an average Joe, you deserve fair due process of the law. Every person should be treated fairly in the legal system. If you are facing criminal charges, ensure that you are given fair due process by hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney who will fight for your rights. To talk about a pending case, request your call with TJ Grimaldi today. Schedule or call 813-226-1023 now.