On Tuesday, former President Donald Trump entered a not guilty plea in New York City to 34 counts of first-degree business record falsification. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 136 years in jail, although if he is found guilty on any or all counts, the real sentence will probably be much less than that.
In New York, falsifying corporate records is generally a misdemeanor offence, but where a defendant’s “purpose to defraud includes an intent to commit another crime or to help or conceal the commission thereof,” the accusation is elevated to a felony with a possible four-year penalty.
At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, reporters questioned Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg about why the second disguised offence was not mentioned in the indictment.
“Let me start by saying that the indictment does not state it since the law does not need it to be specified. I mentioned a few statutes in my remarks, which I will now reiterate: “stated Bragg.” The first is the state election law of New York, which makes it illegal to plan to use illegal tactics to advance a candidate.
I also mentioned a variety of illegal tactics, such as more false claims and comments intended to be submitted to tax officials. I also made a note of the contribution cap imposed by federal election legislation.”
Before the 2016 election, Bragg said that Trump and his supporters used a plan called “catch and kill” to hide information that could have hurt them.
Bragg claimed that Trump then went to great pains to conceal this behaviour by creating dozens of fictitious entries in corporate documents to mask criminal activity, including attempts to break state and federal election laws.
“To conceal the initial covert $130,000 payment, 34 bogus entries were produced in New York corporate records in total.”
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The charge follows a years-long probe by Manhattan prosecutors into hush money payments the former president is claimed to have made to former Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Trump disputes the allegations made by both women that they had affairs with him.
2019 saw the Southern District of New York’s federal prosecutors make the decision not to bring any charges against Trump for the payment-related offences. The Federal Election Commission likewise concluded its inquiry without filing any charges.
The investigation has been called “political persecution and election meddling at the highest level in history,” according to Trump, who is the leading Republican candidate for president in 2024.