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Legal experts say criminal charges against Trump will be difficult to prove

The release was released by the Manhattan district attorney on Tuesday A 34-count unsealed indictment Former President Donald Trump is accused of participating in a yearlong “capture and assassination scheme” to advance his rise to the White House, for his alleged role in efforts to bury damaging stories about his personal life ahead of the 2016 presidential election. .

The complaint, the first to charge a sitting or former US president with a crime, and an accompanying statement of facts accused Trump of illegally falsifying business records to cover up hush payments to people who claimed there were negative stories about him, including in adult films. There is also the star Stormi. Daniels, who claimed she had an extramarital affair with the former president. Trump has denied having an affair with Daniels or another woman who was paid for her silence.

Trump pleaded not guilty on Tuesday after being arraigned and fingerprinted in Manhattan Criminal Court. Trump was quickly released as a model for defendants accused of non-violent crimes.

While the indictment of a former president is an extraordinary development in US history, legal experts point out that Trump’s conviction is far from certain, saying it will not be easy for Manhattan prosecutors to prove a former president guilty.

Falsifying business records is generally a misdemeanor offense under New York state law. But it can be elevated to a lower-level offense if the prosecution can show that the defendant committed the offense with the intent to commit or conceal another offense. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg unsealed the 34 counts on Tuesday All were crimes Allegedly, prosecutors argued with the former president also violated the unspecified electoral law.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks after the sentencing of former President Donald Trump at the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse on April 4, 2023.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg speaks after the sentencing of former President Donald Trump at the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse on April 4, 2023.

Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Cornell Law School professor Randy Zelin, who previously worked as a white-collar defense lawyer and prosecutor, said Bragg could face significant hurdles in convincing a jury that Trump intended to commit or cover up other crimes when he falsified business records to hide money quietly. Payment

“I think it’s going to be hard to win over criminals,” Zelin told CBS News. “Entry Misdemeanor Perjury – It’s a Slam Dunk.”

Jessica Levinson, a CBS News legal analyst and professor at Loyola Law School, said Manhattan prosecutors appear to have a “very strong case” arguing that the false business entries were made as part of a “catch and kill” strategy to suppress negative stories about Trump. . But he agreed that it would be more challenging to link that alleged offense to electoral law violations or other offences.

“Unless you have the smoking gun, showing intent to commit another crime can always be a challenge,” he said.

Still, Levinson said Bragg’s case doesn’t rest solely on the account of former Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen, who he said could be characterized as an unreliable source. Cohen, who said he made $130,000 in hush money payments to Daniels in 2016 on behalf of the former president, served time in federal prison after pleading guilty to tax evasion and campaign finance violations.

“It’s up to David Packer,” Levinson said, referring to the former CEO of America Media, Inc., who allegedly worked with Cohen and Trump to buy and kill negative stories about Trump. “And I think it depends on other people in the Trump Organization who actually helped him pay this.”

John Coffey, a Columbia University professor who studies white-collar crime, said Trump’s lawyers would likely seek to dismiss the case and change the venue of the trial to another jurisdiction. Trump’s attorney, Coffey said, may argue that the case should be dismissed because prosecutors haven’t sufficiently proven that the former president falsified records to cover up other crimes.

“I think they have strong evidence that misdemeanor falsifications were filed but I don’t understand if they were federal crimes or state crimes that were covered up.”

Zelin, a professor at Cornell University, said Trump’s legal team’s main argument may be that the hush money was made to protect his family, not to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.

Trump could argue, “I was just trying to be a good husband and a good father. I was trying to keep it out of the press,” Zelin said.

But Levinson said the argument could be undermined by evidence that Trump, Cohen, Pekar and others colluded to bury negative stories about the former president to shield his presidential candidacy from political attacks and scandals.

“All the allegations point to the idea that some people sat down and said, ‘Let’s make sure we suppress these stories because we don’t want it to get to the voters,'” Levinson added.

Investigating Trump

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