Former President Donald Trump Pleads “Not Guilty” To 34 Felony Charges


Former President Donald Trump and Former VP Mike Pence | Unsplash

Nicholas DeBenedictis, General News Editor

“Everyone stands equal before the law” DA Alvin Braggs

This past Tuesday, former president Donald J. Trump appeared before the Manhattan District Court. Indicted on March 30th, Donald Trump was perceived initially just to be charged for his hush money payments towards the adult film actress Stormy Daniels; The $130,000 sum was paid to the actress in order to cover up an alleged affair that took place in 2006. Since then more has come out, and the full Indictment documents, as well as a press release, have been disclosed by the State of New York. Donald J. Trump is charged with thirty-four counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. In New York State law it is a “felony to falsify business records with intent to defraud and intent to conceal another crime.” District Attorney Alvin Braggs goes on to say “The defendant repeatedly made false statements on New York business records,” and “He also caused others to make false statements.” In the main charge, Trump claims to have paid Michael Cohen for legal services in 2017, but according to the DA, it’s not true—additionally, he carried documents stating such for nine months.

Contained in the press release and indictment documents is the full list of crimes in more excruciating detail. The thirty-four charges highlight Trump’s main intent. During and after the election Trump and others employed by him carried out a “catch and kill” scheme aimed at polishing his image by identifying, purchasing, and burying negative information. This was all done in tandem to boost his electoral prospects in the 2016 election. Just to name a few key instances—he paid $130,000 to an adult film actress about their alleged affair, he paid $150,000 to another woman about their alleged affair, and he paid $30,000 to a Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about a child Trump had out of wedlock. Trump used various “Shell Companies” including American Media Inc. and used various other techniques to hide his backroom payments which all amount to falsifying business records.

The ultimate goal of the prosecution is to prove intent. Without it, they aren’t looking at a felony charge but a minor misdemeanor and probably just a fine payment. Additionally, these charges may appear damning, there are 34 felony charges, yet they are all Class E felonies— which is the lowest felony charge possible. It’s only a felony if they can prove that he falsified business documents with intent to conceal another crime, the crime in question being election fraud. Additionally, neither of these charges is particularly heavily enforced, there is historical precedence to expect Trump to at the most get away with some kind of fine payment or slap on the wrist. Politicians and wealthy individuals skirt these supposed laws, and it is unlikely that Trump will suffer a fate any different.

Trump’s legal history is a tumultuous one and for those who may be disappointed with the lack of accountability for the former president, I would still say there is some hope. Currently, there are three additional cases being publicly pursued; Being the DOJ case against Trump’s involvement with the January 6th assault, the Georgia case against Trump’s attempts to change election results, and the DOJ case against Trump’s possession of classified documents and repeated resistance towards government efforts to retrieve said documents. All in all this case, in particular, doesn’t seem like it will harm Trump in a meaningful way but again that remains to be seen. The story is still developing and the next public hearing is scheduled to take place on December 4th, 2023.

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