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Donald Trump becomes first US president convicted of a crime

He will be sentenced on 11 July

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Donald Trump became the first U.S. president to be convicted of a crime on Thursday when a New York jury found him guilty of falsifying documents to cover up a payment to silence a porn star ahead of the 2016 election.

After two days of deliberation, the 12-member jury pronounced Trump guilty on all 34 felony counts he faced.

Trump watched the jurors dispassionately as they were polled to confirm the unanimous verdict.

Justice Juan Merchan set sentencing for July 11, just days before the Republican Party is scheduled to formally nominate Trump for president ahead of the Nov. 5 election.

The crime of falsifying business documents carries a maximum sentence of four years in prison, though those convicted often receive shorter sentences, fines or probation. Incarceration would not legally prevent him from campaigning, or taking office if he were to win.

He will not be jailed ahead of sentencing.

The verdict plunges the United States into unexplored territory ahead of the November vote, when Trump will try to win back the White House from Democratic President Joe Biden.

Trump, 77, has denied wrongdoing and an attorney representing him said they would appeal as quickly as possible.

“This was a disgrace,” Trump told reporters afterwards as he proclaimed his innocence and repeated his complaints that the trial had been rigged against him.

The verdict comes as he campaigns to defeat Joe Biden in November’s election and return to the White House

Biden’s campaign said the verdict showed that no one was above the law and urged voters to reject Trump in the election.

“There is still only one way to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office: at the ballot box,” the campaign said in a statement.

The White House declined to comment.

Trump’s fellow Republicans quickly condemned the verdict. “Today is a shameful day in American history,” House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson said in a prepared statement.

The jury notified the court they had reached a verdict at 4:20 p.m. (2020 GMT) and the foreperson read out all 34 guilty counts shortly after 5 p.m.

Trump lawyer Todd Blanche asked Merchan to throw out the guilty verdict, arguing that it was based on the unreliable testimony of Cohen. Merchan denied his request.

A Trump appeal is likely to focus on porn star Daniels’ salacious testimony about their alleged sexual encounter as well as the novel legal theory prosecutors used in the case, but he faces long odds, legal experts said.

“We are going to appeal as quickly as we can. We will seek expedited review of this case,” Trump attorney Will Scharf told Fox News.

As a standalone crime, falsifying business documents is normally a misdemeanor in New York, but prosecutors in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office elevated it to a felony on grounds that Trump was concealing an illegal campaign contribution.

They had the burden of proving Trump guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the standard under U.S. law.

“We did our job. (There are) many voices out there. The only voice that matters is the voice of the jury, and the jury has spoken,” Bragg said.

Jurors heard testimony of sex and lies that have been public since 2018, although the charges themselves rested on ledger accounts and other records of Cohen’s reimbursement.

It was known as the “zombie case” because Bragg brought it back to life after his predecessor opted not to bring charges.

If elected, Trump could shut down the two federal cases that accuse him of illegally trying to overturn his 2020 election loss and mishandling classified documents after leaving office in 2021. He would not have the power to stop a separate election-subversion case taking place in Georgia.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in all the cases, and has portrayed his various legal troubles as an effort by Biden’s Democratic allies to hurt him politically.

Reuters
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