Donald Trump in court on Tuesday. Photo credit: Reuters
Former US President Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony charges during a court hearing in New York.
The former president was accused of falsifying records to conceal crimes in the almost hour-long hearing.
Judge Juan Merchan did not issue a gag order – but asked both sides to be mindful of their language and rhetoric.
Trump – running for the presidency in 2024 – will be released on bail and plans to return to Florida later.
What to know about the charges
The court filing says the former president “with intent to defraud and intent to commit another crime and aid and conceal the commission thereof, made and caused a false entry in the business records of an enterprise.”
The charges against Trump are all Class E felonies. That is the lowest category of felony offence in New York and carries a maximum prison sentence of four years per count.
Falsifying business records is usually prosecuted as a misdemeanour.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office is escalating the charge by alleging the offence was committed in order to conceal or commit another crime.
In the courtroom: Trump expressionless in sober hearing
Shortly after 14:30 local time, Donald Trump walked into the courtroom escorted by several secret service members. His face was expressionless and his steps were heavy and slow.
He sat in the front row for proceedings. It was short of fireworks, and was very official. There was no circus-like atmosphere.
The judge presided in a calm and even tone and never raised his voice. He spoke politely and calmly and firmly to Donald Trump, making sure the former president understood his rights.
Trump sat silently throughout almost the entire proceedings. He only spoke when he was required to, either by pleading not guilty or by answering to the judge when addressed directly.
Trump repeatedly falsified business records – prosecutor
The 34-count indictment of Donald Trump has been released by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
He accuses Trump of repeatedly falsifying business records to conceal crimes. Trump has pleaded not guilty on all charges.
In a statement, Bragg said:
“The People of the State of New York allege that Donald J. Trump repeatedly and fraudulently falsified New York business records to conceal crimes that hid damaging information from the voting public during the 2016 presidential election.”
The People of the State of New York allege that Donald J. Trump repeatedly and fraudulently falsified New York business records to conceal crimes that hid damaging information from the voting public during the 2016 presidential election.”
“Manhattan is home to the country’s most significant business market. We cannot allow New York businesses to manipulate their records to cover up criminal conduct.
Manhattan is home to the country’s most significant business market. We cannot allow New York businesses to manipulate their records to cover up criminal conduct.
“As the Statement of Facts describes, the trail of money and lies exposes a pattern that, the People allege, violates one of New York’s basic and fundamental business laws.”
As the Statement of Facts describes, the trail of money and lies exposes a pattern that, the People allege, violates one of New York’s basic and fundamental business laws.”
No gag order placed on Trump
The judge has not placed a gag order on Donald Trump but warned him that the issue would be revisited if the ex-president continued with his heated rhetoric about the case.
A gag order would have prohibited Trump, his attorneys, other parties and witnesses from speaking about the case publicly.
It usually happens when there’s a risk that statements could be made that could incite violence or be viewed as threatening to prosecutors or witnesses.
Violating a gag order means you can be found to be in criminal contempt of court.
Trump’s legal team
Donald Trump’s court appearance has now ended. Here are members of the defence team that just represented him in Manhattan.
From left to right, they are:
Todd Blanche, a former federal prosecutor tapped on Monday to lead Trump’s defence in this case
Susan Necheles, a litigator famous for once representing the Genovese crime family underboss Venero “Benny Eggs” Mangano
Joe Tacopina, an outspoken criminal defence attorney who has promised that any charges against the former president will be fought vigorously
Boris Epshteyn, whose phone was seized by federal agents last year in apparent connection with the investigation into Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results
Credit: The BBC
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