April 12, 2024

Will Donald Trump go to jail?

Donald Trump faces four criminal charges in four separate jurisdictions.

Nearly 100 criminal charges have been filed against the former president, who remains the presumptive candidate to run for president again in 2024.

As his legal battle grows more complex by the day, a serious question arises: What happens if Mr. Trump wins the nomination and campaigns for the general election as a convicted felon?

That possibility, in turn, raises another, simpler question: Could the 45th president of the United States go to prison?

Between his 88 felonies (three were recently dropped in Georgia), Mr. Trump faces a total of roughly seven centuries in prison, spread across dozens of different charges of varying severity.

It’s clear that the luxury real estate mogul won’t be locked up in a federal prison forever, but the widening range of actions for which he is now being prosecuted is slowly decreasing the likelihood that he will avoid the inside of a prison. prison cell forever.

Much will depend on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Trump’s speculative defense of presidential immunity, arguing that he should be fully protected from criminal prosecution for any action he took during his time in the White House, which the the land’s highest court will begin hearing. April 25.

Here we look at the four prosecutions Trump is currently facing and how each affects his chances of campaigning behind bars this year.

1. The New York ‘hush money’ case – maximum 136 years

The first charge against the former president concerns conduct that occurred a long time ago.

Mr. Trump was charged last April by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg with 34 counts of first-degree falsifying corporate records, a felony under New York state law, to conceal “hush money” payments sent to allegedly made on his behalf to porn star Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal in 2016 to secure their silence about sexual affairs he is accused of having with both women a decade earlier. Each charge carries a prison sentence of up to four years.

However, such sentences are only handed out under extenuating circumstances, such as prior felony convictions or based on the severity of the crime.

The accusation against Mr. Trump is largely victimless and as such, a judge is unlikely to sentence him to anything other than a fine or, at most, probation and community service, if he were convicted by a jury.

Trial for the case will begin with jury selection on April 15, with Mr Trump recently issued a silence order by presiding Judge Juan Merchan after the defendant repeatedly attacked the judge’s daughter on social media.

Donald Trump will be escorted to court for his arraignment in New York in April 2023


2. The Florida Secret Documents Case – Maximum 450 Years

The case first came to public attention when the FBI raided Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida, in August 2022, looking for boxes of classified documents that he had been ordered to hand over to the National Archives after completing his term of office. the Oval Office in January 2021.

The episode resulted in accusations that have drawn severe criticism from the Republican’s former representatives, including his own US Attorney General Bill Barr, accusing Trump of blatantly mishandling sensitive national security information by specifically Justice Department prosecutor Jack Smith, including, in one case, allegedly showing top secret information to guests at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.

He is also accused of obstruction of justice and making false statements about the withheld files.

In total, the ex-president faces a prison sentence of up to ten years per charge for intentional concealment of secrets and 20 years per charge for obstruction of justice. While the latter crime carries a higher maximum penalty, Trump should be more concerned about the former.

Convictions for intentionally and/or recklessly retaining classified information often result in prison sentences of several years or more. Trump faces more than thirty of these charges.

The trial in the case was tentatively set for May 20, although Judge Aileen Cannon continues to raise eyebrows with her lengthy pretrial hearings and sometimes baffling rulings on the case.

Donald Trump appears with his aide and co-defendant Walt Nauta and attorneys Chris Kise and Todd Blanche in Miami, Florida in June 2023


3. The Case of the DC Federal Election maximum 55 years

The Justice Department’s second indictment accuses Trump of crimes related to the 2020 presidential election and his team’s months-long effort to overturn the outcome in his favor.

Two fundamental parts of this case should concern the ex-president: the possibility that he will be convicted of conspiring to defraud the United States and conspiring against the right of Americans to vote in free elections, and the possibility that he will be convicted of direct attempts to defraud the United States. block the certification of the election results by inciting a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The former is almost certainly less of an uphill battle for prosecutors, given the amount of evidence now public about the Trump campaign’s election manipulation efforts. The real battle in this regard will be for prosecutors to prove that these efforts exceeded acceptable legal limits.

The latter is a little more difficult to prove. Trump and his allies have fiercely denied since the attack on the Capitol first occurred that the pro-Trump mob that left lawmakers in fear for their lives was led by the president himself.

Trump will likely point to his (late) video message from that day, in which he urged the rioters to go home, as evidence that this was not the case.

However, if convicted on either count, he faces stiff maximum prison terms on each charge, particularly on the obstruction of justice charge, which carries a maximum prison term of 20 years.

Trial in the case was tentatively set for March 4 before being scrapped due to delays in resolving the immunity issue, with presiding judge Tanya Chutkan saying she would reschedule “if and when” the case is finally disposed of, leaving the case open. in a temporary state of limbo until the Supreme Court rules at the end of April.

Donald Trump claimed he witnessed ‘garbage’ and ‘decay’ in Washington, DC, after his arraignment in early August 2023


4. The Georgia racketeering case maximum 76.5 years

The last charge to be dropped was the case brought against Mr. Trump by Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis, and is unique in that it is also the only charge that can be filed. minimum prison sentences.

While Mr. Trump is also accused of a host of minor to moderate crimes in the state, it is his accusation of violating Georgia’s RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) statute that should concern him most. There is a minimum prison sentence of five years, with a maximum of 20 years behind bars.

A RICO charge will undoubtedly be the most difficult for Ms. Willis and her team to prove because it involves fewer allegations (and less evidence) of specific illegality and instead relies on the accuser convincing a judge and jury that Mr. Trump’s overall effort to change the election results in Georgia crossed the line and became a full-fledged criminal enterprise.

However, if that fails, Trump faces twelve other crimes, all of which carry the possibility of prison time.

Donald Trump appears in a police booking photo released by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia in August 2023


How likely is a prison sentence for Trump?

It’s hard to say, but one thing is clear: While the situation ultimately looks bleak for Mr. Trump, his strategy of “delay, delay, delay” appears to be paying off as his court dates are routinely pushed back further and further to to comply with motions filed by his attorneys.

Legal experts who have looked at the Justice Department’s prosecution of the election challenges have almost unanimously commented on the strength of the case and the agency’s efforts to narrow the case to the point where it could go through the courts before the general can appear. The election will take place on November 5.

The question also lingers as to how long Mr. Trump can maintain his costly legal defense in all four cases, given the multimillion-dollar haul that four high-profile criminal trials are likely to generate. A recent report found he was burning cash at an unsustainable rate of $230,000 per day.

Ultimately, the answer to the question of whether Trump will ever see the inside of a prison cell may come down to whether he will not be convicted, but whether it is even possible to imprison a former president.

Should he win this year’s general election, a whole new layer of complexity will be added to the mix.

The only certainty surrounding the multiple prosecutions is this: Donald Trump, regardless of the outcome of his many trials, has already pushed American democracy far to the limits of the unknown and unprecedented.

Whatever happens from here is an example of the world’s most powerful democracy making it up as it goes along.

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