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Analysis: What happens if Trump gets convicted?
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Analysis: What happens if Trump gets convicted?

Trump's fate now rests in the hands of 12 peers and Judge Juan Merchan.

There is a question looming over a Manhattan courthouse as the jury begins deliberations in Donald Trump's hush-money trial: What happens if the jurors return a guilty verdict?

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D) secured a grand jury indictment last year charging Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records, a Class E felony in New York State. Each count carries a maximum prison sentence of four years and a $5,000 fine. At trial, prosecutors attempted to spin the alleged crimes into a case of election interference.

'There are many reasons why incarceration is truly a last resort for me.'

Whether prosecutors proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt is a question only the 12-person jury can answer, though legal experts who spoke with Blaze News doubt they met that threshold.

Trump's fate now rests in the jury's hands, raising unprecedented questions.

Could Trump go to jail?

Technically, yes.

Judge Juan Merchan has broad discretion over how to sentence Trump if the jury finds him guilty. Merchan could place Trump under house arrest, sentence him to probation, order him to pay a fine, or send him to jail.

But it's unlikely that Trump will ever see the inside of a jail cell.

Trump is a 77-year-old defendant, the former president is accused of nonviolent offenses, and he has no prior convictions. Not only that, but Merchan personally told Trump that sending him to prison is a "last resort."

"You are the former president of the United States and possibly the next president as well. There are many reasons why incarceration is truly a last resort for me," Merchan said.

Importantly, few cases prosecuted by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office in which falsifying business records was the most serious charge resulted in prison sentences. Attorney Norm Eisen analyzed those cases and told CBS News that roughly 10% ended with a sentence that included incarceration.

Ultimately, the severity of Trump's sentence — if he is convicted — will depend on how many of the 34 counts he is found guilty of committing.

"It could be nine counts, it could be 34 counts," said George Grasso, a former New York City judge. "The number of counts has some bearing. If someone were convicted of one count of a nonviolent E felony, it's different than someone being found guilty of 34 counts.

"It could be 30 days' jail and three years' probation, or it could just be probation, or it could be a conditional discharge," he explained. "The judge has a lot of options here."

Even then, Trump's team would appeal a guilty verdict, likely delaying a sentence. The appeal would first go to the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, before heading to the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals in Albany.

Appeals processes are notoriously lengthy, though Trump's would likely receive expedited review. Still, the process would not likely conclude before Election Day — now just five months away.

Trump's attorneys twice asked Merchan for a mistrial during Stormy Daniels' testimony; both requests were denied. Her testimony could be grounds for the appeal. Bragg's novel legal approach — upgrading misdemeanors to felonies using uncharged federal crimes — could also be grounds for an appeal.

What about Secret Service protection?

Under federal law, the Secret Service is required to provide former presidents with lifetime protection after they leave office — even if they're incarcerated.

That means Trump gets to keep his Secret Service protection on the inside.

The Secret Service, in fact, has already had preliminary discussions about how to handle protecting Trump if he is sent to jail, the New York Times reported last month. That was in response to the possibility that Merchan would briefly jail Trump in a courthouse holding cell for contempt, according to the newspaper.

Still, the logistics of protecting Trump behind bars remain unknown. The Secret Service does not speak publicly about its protective operations. The agency did not respond to an inquiry from Blaze News.

However, the New York Times reported:

Protecting Trump in a prison environment would involve keeping him separate from other inmates, as well as screening his food and other personal items, officials said. If he were to be imprisoned, a detail of agents would work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, rotating in and out of the facility, several officials said. While firearms are obviously strictly prohibited in prisons, the agents would nonetheless be armed.

Former corrections officials said there were several New York state prisons and city jails that have been closed or partly closed, leaving wings or large sections of their facilities empty and available. One of those buildings could serve to incarcerate the former president and accommodate his Secret Service protective detail.

Meanwhile, some House Democrats want to strip Trump's Secret Service protection if he is convicted.

The Denying Infinite Security and Government Resources Allocated toward Convicted and Extremely Dishonorable Former Protectees Act would remove Secret Service protection from individuals who are convicted of a felony in state or federal court.

Could Trump still run for president from jail?


The Constitution lists three qualifications for the presidency: Be a natural-born citizenat least 35 years old who has lived in the U.S. for at least 14 years.

"There is no constitutional bar on a felon running for office," explained UCLA Law School professor Richard Hasen.

In fact, two people have campaigned for president from prison. Eugene Debs, a socialist, ran for president in 1920 from a prison cell, winning nearly 1 million votes. Lyndon LaRouche also campaigned from prison in 1992.

Could Trump pardon himself if he wins re-election?


The president can only issue pardons for federal convictions, and Trump is being tried in state court. Only New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) could pardon Trump if he is convicted.

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Chris Enloe

Chris Enloe

Staff Writer

Chris Enloe is a staff writer for Blaze News
@chrisenloe →