Following his conviction on all counts, Donald Trump’s future is now in Judge Merchan’s hands

Following his conviction on all counts, Donald Trump’s future is now in Judge Merchan’s hands

Time magazine reports:

[Following Donald Trump’s conviction, t]he experienced New York Supreme Court judge who has presided over Trump’s Manhattan trial for six weeks will have several thorny decisions before him including whether he should send a former President to jail or probation, and if any sentence should be postponed until after Trump has exhausted his appeals. Every decision would reverberate across the political landscape and, depending on the timing, could greatly affect the election in November.

That’s a lot of power vested in one person. Here’s a look at the decisions that Merchan would face involving Trump’s future after a conviction.

The first decisions would come almost immediately after jurors notified the judge they had found Trump guilty. After that, the jury’s duties would be complete and Judge Merchan would dismiss them. It would be up to jurors to decide if they want to talk to reporters or the legal teams after the case about why they voted the way they did.

At that point, prosecutors would have an opportunity to ask the judge to increase Trump’s bail, a common request that is meant to act as a guarantee that a newly convicted defendant will return to court for the sentencing hearing and any other court requirements related to the case. In some trials, prosecutors argue that a defendant who has been found guilty presents an increased risk of fleeing and would ask the judge for stricter bail terms, including being remanded to jail until the formal sentencing hearing. Trump has posted a $175 million bond in the Manhattan fraud case. It is unlikely Merchan would change the terms of Trump’s bail.

Even scheduling Trump’s sentencing hearing will be politically fraught for Merchan. The judge would be able to call a sentencing hearing as soon as July. The Republican National Convention, where Trump is set to formally accept his party’s nomination for the presidency, is scheduled for the third week of July in Milwaukee.

In the weeks leading up to the sentencing hearing, if standard procedures are followed, Trump would meet with a probation officer who would interview Trump and prepare a written report with a recommended sentence. The probation report would be sent to the defense attorneys, the prosecution and the judge. And Trump’s legal team would have a chance to suggest sentencing terms and supply letters of support for Trump.

But the actual sentence would be up to Judge Merchan to decide, and he would have a range of options before him. He could decide not to punish Trump at all by awarding him time served—essentially deciding that going through the trial was punishment enough, and that there was no further need for penalties. He could give Trump a “conditional discharge” with a requirement like community service. Or he could put Trump on probation with terms that he had to abide by in order to avoid jail time. Or Merchan could decide to send Trump to prison.

“There is a huge delta politically between a jail sentence and a sentence of probation. That’s going to be the most agonizing choice the judge will face,” says Norman Eisen, a senior fellow in governance studies at The Brookings Institution and former counsel to the Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee during Trump’s first impeachment. [Continue reading…]

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