Indictment Unsealed: Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg Charges Trump with 34 Counts of Falsifying Business Records

Former US president Donald Trump appears in court at the Manhattan Criminal Court in New Y
SETH WENIG/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has charged former President Donald Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree in violation of New York state Penal Law §175.10, according to the indictment unsealed Tuesday.

The charges of falsifying business records were widely expected, and the 34 separate charges accounted for 34 different business record entries for various dates between February 14, 2017, and December 5, 2017, according to the indictment.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to all 34 counts.

As expected, the indictment alleges that Trump falsified business records “with intent to defraud and intent to commit another crime and aid and conceal the commission thereof.”

The indictment does not say what that second crime is, but Bragg is expected to argue that the second crime was a federal campaign violation, which former prosecutors and legal experts say is a novel and dubious approach.

Donald J. Trump Indictment by Kristina Wong on Scribd

Former New York federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy said in a recent piece in National Review that Bragg has charged Trump with 34 separate counts in hopes of getting just one guilty charge so that he can claim he won the case and brand Trump a “convicted felon.”

McCarthy wrote:

Why is Bragg doing this? Because for him to ‘win’ the case in the all-important political realm, the court of public opinion, he just needs a jury to convict on one count. Then, no matter how flimsy the case Bragg has presented, Trump will be branded a convicted felon. By contrast, Trump can only ‘win’ if he prevails on all 34 counts.

McCarthy said when a prosecutor has scant evidence a person committed a crime, but that the person is a “dissolute character,” jurors who follow the law will want to acquit but more emotional jurors will want to find a rationale to convict. He wrote:

In such cases, juries can deadlock, resulting in a mistrial. Because trials are expensive, resource-intensive propositions for courts, government agencies, and taxpayers, the law frowns on mistrials. Judges thus sternly instruct juries who indicate that they are deadlocked that it is their civic duty to decide the case.

In that scenario, compromise verdicts are common. There is horse-trading between jurors bent on conviction and those who believe acquittal is the proper result. If the prosecutor has presented a weak case against a rogue, you might find jurors favoring acquittal agreeing to convict on one or a handful of counts, calculating that, by returning a lopsided number of not-guilty verdicts, they will have sent a strong message that the state’s case was unworthy and should not have been charged at all.

Bragg knows that jurors may draw that conclusion about his case. But he’s banking on the jurors’ not knowing that he only needs them to convict on one count to achieve his objective — which is a political objective, not a law-enforcement objective.

“Bragg is inflating the number of counts, just like he is inflating trivial misdemeanors into ostensibly serious felonies, because he just needs one,” he argued.


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