Will Trump Go to Jail? Analyzing the Verdict and Political Implications

Former President Donald Trump's yesterday's conviction for falsifying documents to cover up a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels has sparked widespread speculation about whether he will face jail time

by Sededin Dedovic
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Will Trump Go to Jail? Analyzing the Verdict and Political Implications
© Pool / Getty Images

Former U.S. President Donald Trump has been found guilty of falsifying documents to cover up a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election. The question now is what the sentence will be. The decision is entirely up to Judge Juan Marchan, who is overseeing the case.

The crimes Trump has been convicted of—first-degree falsification of business records—are class E felonies in New York, the least severe category, and are punishable by up to four years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for July 11, according to The Guardian.

Unlikely to Go to Prison

Experts say Trump is unlikely to receive a prison sentence. This is his first offense, and the crime he has been convicted of is non-violent. "I don't think the judge would likely imprison him just under those circumstances," said Cheryl Bader, a law professor at Fordham University, who called a prison sentence "unlikely." "But given that he is a former president, has Secret Service details, and is also a likely Republican candidate, I think it would be logistically difficult to carry out and would have political implications that I think Judge Marchan wants to avoid," she said.

The sentence will likely be a fine, probation, community service, or a combination of these. "I’d love to see Trump picking up trash in the subway," said Karen Friedman Agnifilo, a former chief prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney's office.

Much will depend on how Marchan interprets Trump’s behavior, including the lack of remorse and allegations of a rigged trial.

Former U.S.

President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower on May 30, 2024 in New York City. The former president was found guilt© Stephanie Keith / Getty Images

Trump Can Still Run for Office

"Judge Marchan could see Trump's behavior as causing deep harm to the entire country by affecting the electoral process in the most important elections in the country," Bader claimed.

However, even if Trump is sentenced to prison, he will almost certainly appeal, and the appeal process could take months or even years. Therefore, this verdict will not affect Trump’s ability to run in the November election.

In the most bizarre scenario, Trump could be a presidential candidate from prison, and it is not yet clear whether he could serve as president from prison, given that he would not have the ability to pardon himself since it is a state, not a federal, crime.

The only proceeding that could actually harm Trump in the election context is the one regarding organizing the January 6, 2021, insurrection with elements of a coup, but the Supreme Court decided that regardless of the verdict, states cannot bar Trump from appearing on the ballots.

Yesterday, twelve jurors found Trump guilty on all counts—34 in total—after nine and a half hours of deliberation over two days. Trump is the first former U.S. president to be found guilty of criminal charges. At the center of the charges were payments by Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, of $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep her from disclosing that she had an intimate relationship with Trump in 2006.

Trump is expected to quickly appeal the verdict

The charge of falsifying business records carries a penalty of up to four years in prison. Prosecutors have not said whether they will seek imprisonment, and it is not known whether the judge is willing to impose such a sentence even if they did.

But as we mentioned, even if the sentence is imprisonment, it will not prevent Trump from continuing to run for another term in the White House, as he will be the Republican presidential candidate in the November elections.

Trump is facing three more charges, but this New York case may be the only one concluded before the November election, which gives it special weight. While the legal and historical implications of the verdict are obvious, the political consequences are less clear as they might reinforce already entrenched views about Trump rather than change them.

Donald Trump immediately condemned the process as "rigged" and "a disgrace" and said he was "very innocent," claiming that the "real verdict" would be delivered in the U.S. presidential election in November, where he will be the opposition Republican candidate.

"The real verdict will be on November 5, and it will be delivered by the American people," he said to reporters in the hallway of the New York court after being found guilty on all counts of the indictment, which totals 34.

He will be the Republican presidential candidate in the upcoming November elections, with his rival being the current president, Democrat Joseph Biden. Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson condemned it as "a day of shame in American history" in response to Trump being found guilty in a New York court.

"Today is a day of shame for American history," Johnson said, adding that it was a "purely political, not legal process," and that the charges were "ridiculous." President Joe Biden’s campaign stated that "no one is above the law."

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