NEW YORK: After he made history as the first former US President to be arrested, former President Donald Trump was hit with 34 serious criminal charges relating to hush money allegedly paid to three people. Appearing in the New York State Supreme Court on Tuesday, he pleaded not guilty — a denial of the charges and a declaration to fight them.
If he is convicted on all the 34 charges he could theoretically face 136 years in prison — four years for each offence — under the creative way Manhattan prosecutor Alvin Bragg framed the charges breaking out separate transactions into individual charges.
Under New York’s legal system, a grand jury — a panel of citizens — investigated the case in secret hearings and voted on Thursday that there was a prima facie case against him, enabling Manhattan prosecutor Alvin Bragg to file charges.
Trump is the leading candidate for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, and in a poll aggregation, he is only two points behind US President Joe Biden.
The next hearing in the case is set for December when the campaigns get heated and the trial could impinge in the race for the presidency.
The US Constitution does not bar an undertrial — or even a convict — from running for the President.
Trump is under at least three other investigations, two by federal authorities on his role in the attack on the US Congress by his rioting supporters in January 2021 and his handling of top secret documents, and a local investigation in Georgia State whether he tried to manipulate the 2020 presidential election result.
In a rambling speech to his supporters Tuesday night after returning home to Florida, he restated his versions that the case and the investigations were political persecutions and an “insult to the country”.
As he headed from his penthouse to the courthouse, he posted on his social media, “Seems so SURREAL — WOW, they are going to ARREST ME. Can’t believe this is happening in America.”
The scene of his arrest was indeed surreal as it was carried out under the watchful eyes of the Secret Service that is mandated to guard former Presidents. After being booked without being handcuffed or asked to pose for identification pictures but made to give his fingerprints, he was taken to the courtroom of Acting New York State Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan. He did not react to TV reporters in the hallway and sat somberly at the defendant’s table flanked by his lawyers as he was formally charged. The judge admonished him against making incendiary statements. Trump had attacked the judge, saying that he hated Trump. (IANS)