Jurors hear final arguments before deciding Trump’s fate in porn star hush money case

Jurors hear final arguments before deciding Trump’s fate in porn star hush money case. — IANS

New York, May 28 (IANS) Hearing final arguments from lawyers for the defence and the prosecution on Tuesday, jurors prepared on Tuesday to decide the fate of former President Donald Trump in the historic criminal case charging him with faking business ledgers during an attempt to buy a porn star’s silence.

Trump is the first former President to face a criminal trial and his conviction or acquittal could impact the closely fought presidential election pitching him against President Joe Biden.

This is the only one of four criminal cases pending against him that will be decided before the November election where early opinion polls show them virtually tied with Trump having a 1.1 per cent lead, according to the aggregation of polls by RealClear Politics.

Trump’s lawyers took aim at the credibility of his former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen who paid off the porn star Stormy Daniels to keep her from going public with allegations that she had a sexual encounter with him. The case hinges on a payment of $130,000 to Daniels that was recorded in Trump’s business ledgers as legal fees to Cohen.

The prosecutors, who were to follow Trump’s lawyers, allege that it is a criminal falsification of business records as the money was a payoff to avoid a scandal during the 2016 election campaign and the money was not lawyer’s fees, and, therefore, the payoff was also an election interference.

Trump’s lawyer Todd Blanche in his closing arguments on Tuesday countered that the business records were accurate as the payments were made directly to Cohen and the former President was not aware of what Cohen did with the checks. He said that the prosecution’s star witness Cohen, who admitted on the witness stand to stealing $30,000 from Trump and made contradictory statements, was not a credible witness.

Blanche said that the sexual encounter claimed by Daniels 18 years ago and denied by Trump was not an issue in the case.

The panel of 12 jurors made up of ordinary citizens under the New York State legal system are expected to begin deliberating the case in private on Wednesday.

Each juror has a veto because a unanimous verdict is required to convict or acquit him and if they cannot agree on a united verdict, Judge Juan Merchan will have to declare a mistrial, which will not amount to an acquittal, and allow the prosecution to retry him.

The jury could also convict him unanimously on some parts of the charges. If convicted, Trump faces a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

That would create the strange spectacle of Secret Service agents accompanying him to prison to provide protection mandated for him as a former President by US law.

He would certainly appeal a conviction, keeping him out of prison during the presidential campaign and the Republican Party Convention in July that will officially make him the party candidate.

Merchan, however, has threatened Trump with being sent to prison for contempt of court if he continued to criticise persons connected to the case, which Trump has defiantly continued.

Before entering the court, Trump told reporters: “This is all election hunting, election interfering, going after Joe Biden’s opponent because he can’t do it himself.”

The prosecutor waited seven years to bring the case in the middle of the campaign, he said.

Manhattan Public Prosecutor Melvin Bragg, who brought the case, is a Democrat elected to the post in a partisan election. While the lawyers made their final arguments, outside a raucous scene played out with his supporters and opponents holding demonstrations with colourful banners and posters. President Joe Biden’s campaign added to the drama, bringing Actor Robert DeNiro outside the courthouse to denounce Trump accusing him of wanting to “destroy not only this city and country, but the whole world” and reciting an obscenity-laced litany of the former President’s failings.

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