Former President Donald Trump is officially the only U.S. president to ever be indicted in the history of the United States.
The 2024 GOP candidate and his allies have called the Manhattan grand jury’s decision nothing more than a political ploy, accusing Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg of doing President Joe Biden’s “dirty work.” But the reality is that cases like Trump’s are routine.
Since Bragg was elected in 2022, New York prosecutors have filed 117 felony counts revolving around false business records.
And falsified business records in the first and second degrees, while extremely serious offenses, are rarely “the top count” of an indictment, Jeremy Saland of New York-based Saland Law PC, tells Zenger News.
“[Falsified business records] would be the lesser crime that would make you bring in the evidence,” Saland, a former prosecutor in New York’s D.A. office, explains. “It is usually accompanied by something far greater… It’s not the end game of the investigation.”
Grand larceny, a counterfeit fraud scheme, embezzlement or a larger scale fraud likely make up the “backbone” of this case.
While the exact details of the charges against Trump remain sealed, Saland considers it “irresponsible” to pigeonhole Bragg, a Democrat, and the grand jury’s decision as purely political.
“They’ve done their homework, otherwise they wouldn’t be here,” Saland says. Indeed, Trump is innocent until proven guilty, but “this has to play out,” he added.
Bragg remains tight-lipped on the exact charges (it’s believed to be about 30), he did speak to local media earlier this year regarding Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s Chief Financial Officer, who was sentenced to prison for fraud.
“What the public should know is that while that team was operating with full display, other members of the team with the same level of integrity and rigor and professionalism were working on other strands. That’s the type of representation that the people of the state of New York are getting, and if we’re in a position to report out, we will,” Bragg told WNYC in January.
So far, Trump hasn’t surrendered or appeared for a court appearance. He is currently expected to be arraigned on Tuesday, April 4 at 2:15 p.m. He will then attend a plea hearing. If he pleads “not guilty,” which is expected since he has denied all wrongdoing, the case will go to trial, which could take months to set up.
“I think there’s some pressure now on Justice to bring this to a conclusion. To me, based on the way it is shaping up, it is a dead bang obstruction of justice case,” said former federal Judge John Jones III in his comment to the media.
Trump will likely leave the court under his own recognizance, and a judge will likely not set any limits on his travel — thus allowing him to continue his 2024 presidential campaign.
The proceedings are also expected to encourage other prosecutors to move forward with their own charges against Trump elsewhere.
Fulton County D.A. Fani T. Willis is leading the investigation into election interference. Her decision on what charges to seek, and whether to bring them before a regular grand jury, is expected by May.
The case involving Trump’s handling of classified materials taken to his Mar-A-Lago resort is being handled by special counsel Jack Smith, who was appointed by the Justice Department.
On March 15, Attorney General Letitia James provided Trump and other defendants, including his children, with some 1.7 million documents and transcripts from more than 50 witnesses. Her trial, unrelated to Bragg’s, is currently scheduled for Oct. 2.
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