Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Will Trump's Felony Conviction Be Overturned by Supreme Court Immunity Ruling? Key Details as Sentencing Is Delayed.

Will Trump's Felony Conviction Be Overturned by Supreme Court Immunity Ruling? Key Details as Sentencing Is Delayed.

On Monday, former President Donald Trump asked a Manhattan court to overturn his criminal conviction following a Supreme Court ruling that grants some immunity to presidents from prosecution, multiple sources report. The ruling could invalidate certain evidence used by prosecutors and is expected to delay Trump's sentencing.

The Supreme Court ruled that presidents have "absolute immunity" from prosecution for actions within their "core constitutional powers," such as appointing officials, while they can still be prosecuted for actions outside their official duties.

Trump's lawyers formally requested that his criminal conviction be overturned based on this ruling, as reported by The New York Times. Trump was previously convicted on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to reimbursement checks he sent to former attorney Michael Cohen for paying adult film star Stormy Daniels.

ABC News reported that Trump’s attorneys argued some evidence used in the case should be excluded under the immunity ruling. The Supreme Court stated that evidence regarding a president’s official acts cannot be used at trial, even if the crime itself is not immune from prosecution.

Trump had previously sought to delay his trial until the Supreme Court ruled on immunity, arguing that certain evidence from his presidency was protected, including public statements and an ethics form showing his reimbursement to Cohen. Prosecutors used this evidence at trial, including 2018 statements by Trump suggesting Cohen should remain loyal and not implicate him in the hush money scheme.

It remains uncertain if the immunity ruling would apply to Trump’s public statements. The Supreme Court noted that most of Trump’s public comments as president are covered by his official duties, but there could be instances where he spoke in an unofficial capacity, which would not be immune.

Trump might also claim that his 2017 reimbursement checks to Cohen are covered by immunity, although a federal judge previously ruled that these checks were personal and unrelated to his official duties. U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein stated that the payments were "a cover-up of an embarrassing event" and not part of Trump's official presidential duties.

Judge Juan Merchan, overseeing Trump’s hush money case, may decide whether to allow Trump to contest the verdict. The deadline for post-trial motions has passed, and Trump’s sentencing, scheduled for July 11, may be delayed as Merchan considers the immunity issue. Prosecutors have agreed to a potential two-week delay. If sentenced, Trump’s punishment could range from fines to up to four years in prison, though legal experts believe he is unlikely to face prison time as a first-time offender.

The immunity ruling will likely impact all four criminal cases against Trump. In his federal case for attempting to overturn the 2020 election, the Supreme Court’s ruling will lead to a review to distinguish between official and unofficial acts in the indictment. Trump has also claimed immunity in his federal case for allegedly withholding White House documents and in his state case for attempting to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia. These cases, which have already faced delays, are expected to be prolonged further due to the immunity claims.

Trump was indicted in March 2023 on charges related to Cohen’s hush money payments and found guilty in May after a week-long trial. Cohen paid Daniels $130,000 before the 2016 election to silence her allegations of an affair with Trump, which Trump has denied. Trump then reimbursed Cohen through a series of checks in 2017, which prosecutors argued were falsely labeled as legal services. Trump pleaded not guilty, maintaining that the payments to Cohen were appropriately labeled as legal services. Cohen testified that Trump was directly involved in the hush money scheme.

President Biden addresses the Supreme Court’s Trump immunity ruling

The Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling on Monday, which overturned lower court decisions rejecting Trump's immunity claims, has been widely criticized. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in her dissent, argued that the ruling undermines the constitutional principle that no person is above the law.


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