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WORLD | 30-05-2024 18:35

Donald Trump convicted on all charges in hush money trial

New York jury finds Donald Trump guilty of multiple felonies at his hush-money trial, making him the first former US president to be convicted of crimes.

A New York jury convicted Donald Trump on all charges in his hush money case Thursday in a seismic development barely five months ahead of the election where he seeks to recapture the White House.

The historic first criminal trial of a former US president ended with the 77-year-old Trump found guilty on each of the 34 charges of falsifying business records to hide a payment meant to silence porn star Stormy Daniels.

Trump, who is all but certain to appeal, did not immediately react, but sat still, his shoulders dipping.

The conviction thrusts the United States into uncharted political territory but does not bar Trump from a White House run, even in the unlikely event that Judge Juan Merchan sentences him to prison time.

The verdict comes just weeks before the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee, where Trump is due to receive the party's formal nomination to face Democratic President Joe Biden on November 5.

The 12-member jury deliberated for more than 11 hours over two days at the end of the extraordinary five-week trial held in a drab Manhattan courtroom.

Trump was convicted of falsifying business records to reimburse his lawyer, Michael Cohen, for a US$130,000-payment to Stormy Daniels on the eve of the 2016 election, when her claim to have had sex with him could have proved politically fatal.

The trial featured lengthy testimony from the adult performer, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford and who described to the court in graphic detail what she says was a 2006 sexual encounter with the married Trump.

Prosecutors successfully laid out a case alleging that the hush money and the illegal covering up of the payment was part of a broader crime to prevent voters from knowing about Trump's behaviour.

Trump's defence attorneys had countered that "trying to influence an election" was simply "democracy" and that the former president did nothing wrong.

The trial has distracted Trump from his campaign to unseat Biden. However, he milked the media attention throughout, with daily speeches in front of the cameras outside the courtroom in which he complained about being a political victim.

 

Jury identities kept secret

Identities of the 12 jurors deciding the case were kept secret, a rare practice more often see in cases involving mafia or other violent defendants.

After teasing the prospect for weeks, Trump – who denied ever having sex with Daniels at a 2006 celebrity golf tournament – opted not to testify.

The Republican, who made his name as a brash real-estate mogul before a stunning ascent to the nation's highest office in the 2016 election, now faces prison or, more likely, probation.

In theory, he could face up to four years in jail for each count of falsifying business records but legal experts said as a first-time offender he is unlikely to go behind bars.

An appeal could take months to complete.

Should he win the presidency he will not be able to pardon himself, given that the case was not brought by the federal government but by the state of New York, where only the governor could clear his name.

Trump also faces federal and state charges of conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election won by Biden, and for hoarding secret documents after leaving the White House.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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