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Verdict at Trump’s trial: here are the possible scenarios

  • May 29, 2024
  • 6 Min
  • 11
verdict-at-trump’s-trial:-here-are-the-possible-scenarios

The twelve jurors in the trial of Donald Trump, for hidden payments to a porn star at the height of the 2016 presidential campaign, began deliberating on Wednesday to decide the penal fate of the former American president.

“You are the judges of the facts,” Judge Juan Merchan reminded the jurors, just before they retired. He urged them to “put aside their personal opinions” toward the Republican presidential candidate in November, whether they favor him or not.

Here are the possible scenarios.

WHAT QUESTIONS WILL JURORS NEED TO ANSWER?

During the debates, pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels crudely detailed her meeting and the sexual relationship she claims to have had with Donald Trump in 2006, and which the latter denies.

The former personal lawyer of real estate mogul Michael Cohen assured that Donald Trump had instructed him to pay $130,000 to the actress in exchange for her silence on this episode, at the very end of the 2016 presidential campaign , a version also denied by the defense.

But the jury will decide neither on the reality of this connection nor on the legality of the payment. The question it is up to him to decide is whether Donald Trump was guilty of 34 falsifications of accounting documents to conceal the reimbursement of this sum to Michael Cohen, throughout 2017.

A litigant is found guilty of aggravated falsification of company accounts when “he made or caused false statements in the records of a commercial company with the intention of defrauding, and of aiding or concealing another offense”, underlined Judge Merchan in his final explanations to the jurors.

This additional offense would be a violation of New York State election law, which prohibits promoting or harming a candidacy by unlawful means.

For the prosecution, the 34 offenses are materialized by false invoices, checks (some of which signed by Donald Trump) and false entries in the accounting books of the Trump Organization.

She further considers the $130,000 to be an illegal campaign expense.

WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE VERDICTS?

Trump guilty or not guilty, the jurors will have to decide unanimously on each of the 34 counts.

To convict a criminal defendant, U.S. law requires jurors to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense therefore only needs a juror refusing to convict Donald Trump to obtain a reprieve, or even a victory.

But the 12 jurors could also come to a conclusion of disagreement. The trial would be canceled and Donald Trump could claim victory. But it could be temporary, because another trial could be organized, unless the prosecution drops the charges. It remains to be seen whether a new trial could be held before the presidential election.

WHAT PENALTY DOES DONALD TRUMP FACE?

If he is found guilty, it will not be up to the jurors, but to the judge, to set the sentence a few weeks later. Prison is possible in theory, with falsification of accounting documents being punishable by a maximum of four years in New York State. But in the absence of a criminal record for the almost 78-year-old defendant, he could impose an alternative sentence such as a suspended sentence with probation, or community service as well as a fine.

In any case, Donald Trump could appeal, with most likely a suspensive effect on his sentence, particularly in the event of prison.

A criminal conviction, the first for a former American president, would not invalidate his candidacy in the November 5 election.