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Trump convicted on 34 counts of falsifying business records

By AI HEPING in New York | Xinhua | Updated: 2024-05-31 11:16

Former US president Donald Trump leaves the courthouse after a jury found him guilty of all 34 felony counts in his criminal trial at New York State Supreme Court in New York, New York, USA, 30 May 2024. Trump faced 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential campaign. [Photo/Agencies]

A New York jury on Thursday convicted former US president Donald Trump of falsifying business records to cover up hush money paid to a porn star who said the two had sex, a verdict that could have an impact on the presumptive GOP presidential candidate's reelection bid in November.

Media reports said Trump sat in the Manhattan courtroom and gazed intently at the 12 jurors — five women and seven men — as Justice Juan Merchan polled each one on each count to confirm their decision.

Trump heard "guilty" 34 times on 34 counts of falsifying business records, making him the first former president to become a convicted felon.

Trump appeared upset, one report said, and gripped his son Eric's hand for an extended period and then walked out of the courtroom.

Jurors had deliberated for two days in the six-week trial in which prosecutors accused Trump of orchestrating an illegal conspiracy to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Sentencing was scheduled for July 11 at 10 am, four days before the beginning of the Republican National Convention.

The felony conviction calls for a sentence of up to four years in prison, but Merchan has other penalties from which to choose. Because the crime is nonviolent and Trump has no prior convictions, Merchan could choose probation, home confinement or a mild form of supervised release. He also could impose fines or community service.

Trump is certain to appeal the verdict and it could take months or years to resolve.

The jury found that Trump had faked records to conceal the purpose of money given to his onetime fixer, Michael Cohen. The false records disguised the payments as ordinary legal expenses when Trump was reimbursing Cohen for $130,000 he paid to silence porn star Stormy Daniels' account of a sexual liaison with Trump before the 2016 election.

With the jurors gone from the courtroom, Todd Blanche, Trump's lawyer, argued that the verdict is improper and should be tossed because it relied on Cohen's testimony.

The judge immediately denied the motion.

In a statement sent by text, Cohen said: "Today is an important day for accountability and the rule of law. While it has been a difficult journey for me and my family, the truth always matters."

The verdict ends the only one of four criminal cases against Trump that was likely to go to trial before Election Day. Trump faces two prosecutions over his alleged efforts to overturn President Joe Biden's 2020 election victory and one alleging he illegally retained classified documents after leaving the White House.

When Trump left the courtroom, he walked up to cameras and reporters in the hallway.

"This was a disgrace," Trump said. "This was a rigged trial by a conflicted judge who was corrupt."

He reiterated previous complaints: that Merchan was biased, that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg brought the case to keep Trump out of the White House, and that he should have gotten a venue change because of how liberal-leaning Manhattan is.

"The real verdict is going to be Nov 5, by the people," he said. "I AM A POLITICAL PRISONER!" Trump declared in a fundraising email sent moments after the verdict, although he was not jailed.

"We will fight for our Constitution. This is long from over," he said, walking away and not answering questions.

House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson said the verdict "was a purely political exercise, not a legal one".

Biden's 2024 reelection campaign said the verdict shows that "no one is above the law".

Shortly after the verdict was read in court, Biden posted a fundraising appeal on X from his campaign account: "There's only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: At the ballot box," Biden wrote. "Donate to our campaign today."

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