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Donald Trump is guilty. Does he have to go to prison now?

Donald Trump is guilty. Does he have to go to prison now?

The hush money trial ends with a guilty verdict for Donald Trump. But what follows from this? Will the former president now have to go to prison? And could he still be re-elected? All questions at a glance.

The verdict is: guilty. On all 34 counts. In the historic trial for concealing hush money payments to a porn actress, the jury found Donald Trump guilty. This makes him the first former president in US history to be convicted of a crime.

It is the end of a trial the likes of which the United States has never seen before. The verdict, which was read out shortly after 5 p.m. New York time on Thursday, ended months of legal maneuvering, weeks of testimony and days of deliberations. But given that Trump is running for president again, much is still unclear even after the verdict has been announced. Never before has a convicted criminal had a better chance of winning.

The most important questions and answers at a glance.

What is the verdict against Donald Trump?

When those present in courtroom 1530 at around 4:30 p.m. New York time on Thursday were already assuming that the jury deliberations would drag on into Friday, the former president appeared more relaxed than on almost any other day of the trial. But when Judge Merchan came into the courtroom and announced that the jury had reached a verdict, the mood changed suddenly. Trump, who had just been chatting animatedly with his lawyer Blanche and even grinning, fell silent and stared straight ahead with a stony expression. So the 77-year-old accepted the verdict half an hour later.

The foreman of the jury stood up and heard all the charges relating to concealing hush money payments to a porn actress read to him one by one. His answer 34 times in a row: “Guilty.”

During the six weeks of the trial, the prosecution had explained in detail how Trump had covered up a hush money payment of $130,000 to former porn actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election by falsifying business documents. The payment had persuaded Daniels to keep quiet about an alleged sex affair that she claims to have had with Trump and which he denies. By buying her silence, Trump influenced his chances of winning the election and then illegally accounted for the flow of money, according to the prosecution. An argument that the jury agreed with.

Prosecutor Alvin Bragg said there were “many voices out there,” but the only voice that counted was that of the jury – and that voice had now spoken.

Does he have to go to prison now?

After the jury’s verdict, the ball is now in Judge Merchan’s court, who plans to announce the sentence on July 11. The timing is tricky: four days later, the Republican nominating convention begins, at which Trump is to be officially chosen as the presidential candidate. In New York, the charge of falsifying business records is a Class E felony, the lowest level of misdemeanor in the state. With a full guilty verdict on all 34 counts, Trump faces a punishment that could range from probation to a fine to, theoretically, four years in prison.

In practice, however, legal experts believe it is unlikely that Trump will end up behind bars. District Attorney Alvin Bragg has so far remained tight-lipped about whether the prosecution is actually seeking a prison sentence. The fact that Trump has never been convicted in a criminal case before is a factor in favor of the Republican. It is therefore considered more likely that the sentence will be suspended, converted to house arrest, imposed as a fine, or that Trump will be required to do community service.

If the judge does decide on a prison sentence, it would not mean that Trump would soon be sitting in an orange jumpsuit in a cell next to other prisoners. Experts say he would most likely be detained in a separate facility, guarded around the clock by Secret Service agents.

Can Trump still become president?

The short answer is yes. Because the conviction does not legally prevent Trump from running in the presidential election in November as planned. According to the Constitution, there are only three requirements for candidates: Candidates must be US citizens by birth, at least 35 years old, and have lived in the United States for at least 14 years.

Even in the unlikely event of a prison sentence, Trump could be elected president. A look at history shows that this case has already happened: in 1920, the socialist Eugene Debs contested the presidential election from prison, albeit unsuccessfully. In practice, the election of a president behind bars would lead to a legal crisis. Trump could therefore sue for release and argue that his imprisonment prevents him from fulfilling his constitutional duties as president.

What the Republican could actually lose after the verdict is his own vote. Trump is registered to vote in Florida, where people convicted of a crime lose the right to vote while they are serving their sentence – whether through probation, financially or actually in prison.

What happens next in court?

Trump’s defense team intends to take legal action against the verdict following the guilty verdict. His lawyer, Todd Blanche, announced on US television that his team would file an appeal after the sentence was announced in July. Among other things, they will argue that the jury was biased and that the timing of the trial was unfair. Initially, they want to file motions against the decision in the coming weeks, said Blanche. His team will then file an appeal as soon as possible.

It is therefore unlikely that a legally binding and thus final verdict will be available by the election date on November 5th. The procedure is likely to drag on for months. It could lead to the bizarre situation that the candidate for the highest office in the state has to comply with probation conditions in the middle of the election campaign, is only allowed to move around to a limited extent or may have to do community service. Otherwise, the guilty verdict does not technically stand in the way of his election.

How does the former president react?

Outwardly, Trump accepted the verdict unmoved and with a stony expression. Outside the courtroom, the former president called the decision a “disgrace” and stressed: “I am a very innocent man.” Trump doubled down in front of the television cameras and emphasized: “Our entire country is being manipulated right now. This is what the Biden administration is doing to harm a political opponent.” The actual verdict would be handed down on the day of the presidential election, he said – that is, on November 5th. He then drove in a black motorcade to Trump Tower in New York. At the entrance to the magnificent building, he demonstratively raised his fist in the air and waved to onlookers.

His campaign team immediately used the guilty verdict to launch a fundraising campaign. “I am a political prisoner,” said an email from the Trump team and on the Republican’s fundraising website. “I was just convicted in a rigged witch-hunt trial: I did nothing wrong. But with your support at this moment in history, we will win back the White House and make America great again.”

How do Democrats and Republicans react?

Prominent Republicans and Trump supporters reacted to the guilty verdict with outrage. “Today is a shameful day in American history,” wrote Mike Johnson, the Republican leader of the US House of Representatives on Platform X. The verdict was “wrong” and “dangerous.” Senator Marco Rubio was furious: “The verdict in New York is an absolute farce that makes a mockery of our legal system.”

Many were combative. Trump’s former spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who is now governor of Arkansas, called the trial a “politically motivated disgrace” and assured that Trump would still be president. Party chairman Michael Whatley made a similar statement, speaking of a campaign in which the judiciary was being used as a weapon against Trump. The actual verdict would be made in the election on November 5.

President Joe Biden sees it that way too. On his private X-account, he posted: “There is only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: At the ballot box.” The Democrat announced through his campaign team that no one is above the law. “The threat that Trump poses to our democracy has never been greater than it is today.” The White House simply said that they respect the rule of law and have no further comment.

In liberal-minded New York, dozens of onlookers gathered outside the courthouse after the verdict was announced – some of them celebrating the verdict. One woman held up a sign reading “Trump convicted” and danced, one man’s sign read “guilty” and another’s read “Lock him up.”

What about Trump’s other trials?

There are currently three other trials underway against the former president. Two trials in the capital Washington and in the state of Georgia are about his attempts to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election. In another trial in Miami, he is accused of illegally storing highly sensitive government documents. The charges in these three cases are far more serious than those in the New York trial. One of the charges among many: conspiracy against the United States. But with delaying tactics and legal maneuvers, Trump has managed to torpedo all of these trials and postpone the start of the trial in all three cases.

The important election fraud trial against him in Washington is even completely in jeopardy. First, the Supreme Court, as the highest court in the United States, must decide whether Trump might not be immune from prosecution in the case. This will then also have an impact on the two trials in Georgia and Florida. With each passing day, the chances that any of these trials will take place before election day are decreasing.

Sources: “”, “”, “”, with material from the news agencies DPA, AFP and AP

Source: Stern

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