Trump sentencing in hush-money case delayed until September

Donald Trump hush money trial
(Image: Sarah Yenesel/Pool via Reuters)

A New York judge has delayed Donald Trump’s sentencing until September as his lawyers seek to challenge his conviction after a Supreme Court ruling.

Trump was initially scheduled to be sentenced on 11 July.

His legal team asked for his conviction in a hush-money case to be overturned after the nation’s highest court ruled Monday that former presidents had partial immunity for “official” acts during their presidency.

Justice Juan Merchan said on Tuesday that he would issue a decision on the motions by 6 September.

If sentencing is necessary, the judge wrote, it will take place on 18 September.

In May, a New York jury found Trump guilty of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, making him the first former president ever convicted of a felony.

Prosecutors said Trump had reimbursed his fixer, Michael Cohen, for hush money paid to an adult film star, who claimed she had an affair with Trump. The money, paid on the eve of the 2016 election, was covered up by falsely labeling it as a legal expenses.

It is the first of Trump’s four criminal cases to go to trial.

In a post on Truth Social shortly after Justice Merchan’s ruling, Trump wrote that the delay constituted “TOTAL EXONERATION!” and that it “ends” “witch hunts against me.”

However, the decision only pauses the proceedings until the judge makes his determination.

On Monday, the Supreme Court released a bombshell ruling that found Trump – and other former presidents – had immunity from prosecution for “official acts”.

The challenge arose from a federal criminal case against Trump accusing him of trying to overturn results of the 2020 election, but it could have ripple effects in his other legal battles.

Seeking to leverage the Supreme Court decision, Trump’s lawyers in the New York case quickly sought to overturn the May conviction.

They said the Supreme Court ruling is relevant here, because some of the events and evidence at the heart of the case took place while Trump was in the White House.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted Trump, responded that Trump’s argument was “without merit” but asked for a deadline of 24 July to file a response.

However, legal experts said that the challenge could be an uphill battle for Trump.

“The allegations in the New York fraud case in which Trump was convicted seem clearly to relate to unofficial conduct by Trump, none of which would seem to involve his official duties,” said Mark Zauderer, an appellate attorney in New York.

“While Trump will be able to litigate his immunity defence in some of his cases, he will have a most difficult time succeeding with this argument in the New York case.”

Prosecutors proved that Cohen, acting at Trump’s behest, paid adult film star Stormy Daniels $130,000 for her silence about an alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Trump. The payment took place when Trump was still a candidate for president.

Trump then reimbursed Cohen in multiple installments starting in early 2017, and falsely recorded them as legal expenses.

It could be difficult to convice a court that this behaviour constitutes “official” presidential acts, said Philip Bobbitt, a constitutional law scholar.

“I just don’t see it,” he told the BBC.


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