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New York jury finds Trump guilty

This article first appeared on the Magnolia Tribune.

Former President Donald Trump sits in the court room with his lawyers at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York, Thursday, April 25 2024. (Mark Peterson/Pool Photo via AP)

  • Late Thursday afternoon former President Donald Trump was found guilty of felony falsification of business records, becoming the first former president in U.S. history to be convicted of a crime. Reaction to the verdict divided along partisan lines.

Five weeks of trial came to a close with ten hours of deliberation. The New York jury assigned to determine former President, and presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump’s fate found him guilty of all 34 counts of felony falsification of business records alleged by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Trump becomes the first former president in U.S. history to be convicted of a crime.

The charges stem from a $130,000 payment made by former Trump attorney Michael Cohen to Stephanie Clifford, an adult film actress who performs under the name Stormy Daniels, for her silence related to an alleged sexual encounter with Trump. The Trump organization’s business ledgers recorded the payment as legal fees.

Under New York law, falsifying a business record constitutes entry of false information on a business document for the benefit of the person entering the information. The prosecution succeeded in convincing the jury that recording Cohen’s payment to Clifford as a legal fee was such an entry.

Ordinarily, falsification of business records is a misdemeanor. In this case, the charges were elevated to a Class E felony, the lowest felony level under New York law. The “bump up” in charges hinged on an allegation that the falsified business record was used in the commission of separate crimes – violations of state election law in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election.

Judge Juan Merchan, who has faced stinging criticism during the trial, both from Trump and his political allies, now will decide the severity of Trump’s punishment. A sentencing date has been set for July 11, 2024, just four days before the Republican National Convention is slated to begin.

Each of the 34 felony charges carries up to a $5,000 fine and four-year prison sentence, though most legal experts believe any serious prison time is unlikely given the low level nature of the offenses and the fact that Trump is a first-time offender.

Bragg’s office previously informed the court it had brought 437 cases that included a felony charge for falsifying business records in the decade preceding Trump’s indictment in March of 2023.

Reuter’s reports that Manhattan criminal court records show four defendants sentenced to prison time for falsifying business records during that time period. “Three of those defendants, unlike Trump, were also charged with crimes such as fraud and grand larceny.” The fourth’s falsification of business records was part of a commercial bribery scheme.

Trump is likely to appeal the verdict.

The jury’s decision drew swift partisan reactions from both sides of the aisle.

Trump’s presumptive opponent in the 2024 election, President Joe Biden, used the moment to make a fundraising pitch, writing “There’s only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: At the ballot box. Donate to our campaign today.”

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves took to X, formerly Twitter, to criticize the jury’s decision and the use of the legal system to tarnish Trump’s candidacy, saying:

“The lawless conviction of President Donald Trump only reflects the desperation of President Biden and the corrupt methods he will use to steal this election. I am confident that justice will prevail, and the people of America will not reward the leftwing wannabe dictators abusing our justice system in November.”

Reeves’ general sentiment was shared by many Mississippi Republicans in public statements. Treasurer David McRae posted “I stand with Trump” moments after the verdict was announced.

U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith said in a press release:

“This has always been a politically-motivated sham prosecution. I am confident this injustice will be overturned on appeal. The American people see straight through this blatant attempt to influence an election by weaponizing our legal system. Democrats can’t win on their failed policies, so they’re doing everything imaginable to distract focus away from Biden’s incompetence. It won’t work, and I look forward to seeing President Trump sworn in again next January.”

Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson used the moment to make a pitch for New York businesses looking to move, posting “if any businesses are looking to get out of NY, our tax structure and regulatory reform measures have Mississippi on the rise. Come on down!”

Mississippi’s lone Democratic congressional member, Representative Bennie Thompson expressed a different sentiment, writing simply “Justice has prevailed.”

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

Read original article by clicking here.

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