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Judge delays Trump’s sentencing in hush money case to eye high court ruling on presidential immunity

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune.

Former President Donald Trump walks to make comments to members of the media after a jury convicted him of felony crimes for falsifying business records in a scheme to illegally influence the 2016 election, at Manhattan Criminal Court, Thursday, May 30, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool)

Former President Donald Trump’s sentencing in his hush money case has been postponed to September after the judge agreed Tuesday to weigh the possible impact of a new Supreme Court ruling on presidential immunity.

Trump had been scheduled to face sentencing July 11 on his New York conviction on felony charges of falsifying business records. He denies any wrongdoing.

The postponement sets the sentencing for Sept. 18, well after the Republican National Convention, where Trump is set formally to accept the party’s nomination for president in this year’s race. The convention runs from July 15 to 18.

A Supreme Court ruling Monday granted broad immunity protections to presidents, while also restricting prosecutors from citing any official acts as evidence in trying to prove a president’s unofficial actions violated the law.

Hours after it was issued, Trump’s attorney requested that New York Judge Juan M. Merchan set aside the jury’s guilty verdict and delay the sentencing to consider how the high court’s ruling and could affect the hush money case. He said he’ll rule Sept. 6.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks at a press conference after the arraignment of former president Donald Trump in New York on Tuesday, April 4, 2023. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Manhattan prosecutors said Tuesday they would not oppose Donald Trump’s request to delay the sentencing in his hush money trial as he seeks to have the conviction overturned following a Supreme Court ruling that granted broad immunity protections to presidents.

In a letter filed with the New York court, prosecutors with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office said they would be open to a delay of at least two weeks in the July 11 sentencing in order to file a response to Trump’s motions.

Trump now won’t learn his sentence until after he is formally nominated at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, which starts July 15, leaving open the possibility that he could be ordered to jail during a critical stretch of his campaign.

The letter came one day after Trump’s attorney requested the judge delay the sentencing as he weighs the high court’s ruling and how it could influence the New York case.

The Supreme Court decision grants broad immunity to presidents for any official acts, while also restricting prosecutors from citing any official acts as evidence in trying to prove a president’s unofficial actions violated the law.

In their filing, defense attorneys argued that Manhattan prosecutors had placed “highly prejudicial emphasis on official-acts evidence,” including Trump’s social media posts and witness testimony about Oval Office meetings.

Prosecutors said Tuesday that they believed those arguments were “without merit,” but noted they were not opposed to adjourning the sentencing as the judge considers the matter.

Trump was convicted May 30 on 34 counts of falsifying business records arising from what prosecutors said was an attempt to cover up a $130,000 hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 presidential election.

Daniels claims she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006 after meeting him at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe. Trump has repeatedly denied that claim, saying at his June 27 debate with President Joe Biden: “I didn’t have sex with a porn star.”

Prosecutors said the Daniels payment was part of a broader scheme to buy the silence of people who might have gone public during the campaign with embarrassing stories alleging he had extramarital sex. Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen paid Daniels and was later reimbursed by Trump, whose company logged the reimbursements as legal expenses.

Falsifying business records is punishable by up to four years behind bars. Other potential sentences include probation, a fine or a conditional discharge which would require Trump to stay out of trouble to avoid additional punishment. Trump is the first ex-president convicted of a crime.

Trump will be required to be present in Merchan’s Manhattan courtroom when he is sentenced.

Trump’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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