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Trump’s Sentence Shouldn’t Involve Jail Time — But With This Judge, Anything Is Possible

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While prosecutors’ star witness Michael Cohen may have spent the trial selling T-shirts depicting his former boss behind bars, the actual likelihood of former President Donald Trump going to prison should be low — but given the judge’s past rulings, a prison sentence wouldn’t be surprising.

In New York, charges for falsifying business records carry a maximum sentence of four years in prison. Now that Trump has been convicted, his fate lies in the hands of the judge he’s relentlessly slammed as biased: legal experts who spoke with the Daily Caller News Foundation didn’t rule out Judge Juan Merchan opting to sentence the former president to jail time.

“I think jail is unlikely but I would not put it past Merchan to order at least some jail time,” criminal defense attorney and legal analyst Philip Holloway told the DCNF. “Merchan has revealed himself to be a far-left anti-Trump zealot. He would love nothing more that for the history books to feature him as the judge who ‘got Trump.’”

Merchan made a series of rulings that hurt the defense, including issuing jury instructions that did not require jurors to agree on what  “unlawful” means Trump allegedly used to influence the 2016 election, as prosecutors argued he falsified the records to do. Merchan also placed a gag order on Trump that prevented him from talking about witnesses like Michael Cohen or Stormy Daniels, who frequently attacked him in the media.

Trump’s sentencing date is set for July 11, just days before the Republican National Convention is scheduled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

“Probation is the most likely sentence so the question becomes: what kind of conditions would Merchan place on Trump,” Holloway continued. “He could place severe restrictions on Trump’s ability to travel and therefore keep him off the campaign trail — which has been their goal all along.”

Merchan already threatened imposing a jail sentence after finding Trump violated his gag order for the tenth time, telling him that the fines didn’t seem to be working.

“You are the former president of the United States and possibly the next president as well,” Merchan mused, highlighting the “magnitude” of the decision. He said he worried about people like the court officers and Secret Service detail who would have to “execute” the sanction.

“But at the end of the day, I have a job to do,” Merchan told Trump.

Trump defense attorney Todd Blanche said on the Today Show Friday that his client should not go to jail.

“Under the guidelines and the rules of the court, and what normally would happen, President Trump would not face a day in prison,” Blanche said. “Putting aside that he was President of the United States, the conduct that we’re talking about is 7,8, 9 years old. He’s a grandfather, a husband, a father. He should not go to prison.”

The Secret Service started planning in April how it would handle the situation if Trump were put in short-term confinement, ABC News reported at the time, citing officials familiar with the situation.

“Given Merchan’s conduct of this trial, the gag order, and his utter and baffling refusal to follow the law and recuse himself (not to mention dismiss the wholly unconstitutional indictment), I believe he holds great animus for Trump, so I won’t be at all surprised if he orders him into some sort of confinement, whether that is jail or house arrest,” former federal prosecutor Francey Hakes told the DCNF.

“I think Judge Merchan is going to have a hard time figuring out a sentence,” New York criminal defense attorney Arthur Aidala told ABC News on Thursday, noting he did not think jail would be on the table. “I think he’s got to come up with some form of community service that makes Manhattan a better place.”

Columbia Law School professor John Coffee likewise told CBS that a defendant of Trump’s age, who is “who’s a first time offender, committed a non-violent offense, and has an otherwise, well, distinguished record” would typically have “no chance of an incarceration sentence.”

“But there may be a view of many judges that you have to show that no one’s above the law, and even the future president should have a taste of prison,” he told the outlet.

Nevertheless, any jail sentence could be delayed if Trump appeals, which he said he intends to do on Friday. Most legal experts who spoke with the DCNF have a sense Trump’s conviction will ultimately be tossed out.

A variety issues could be raised on appeal, from Democratic District Attorney Alvin’s shaky legal theory built on an effort to enforce federal campaign finance law to instructions that did not require jurors to agree on what “unlawful” means Trump used to allegedly influence the election and Merchan’s decision to allow the “prejudicial” testimony of porn star Stormy Daniels. Before the verdict came down Thursday, Trump attorney Will Scharf raised the possibility of a malicious prosecution lawsuit against Bragg.

“There are federal Constitutional violations I have no doubt federal courts will address (and overturn this garbage verdict) if the case makes it that far,” Hakes told the DCNF. “NY appellate courts should do their job and overturn it, but NY is very heavily dem-leaning so I don’t know if they can withstand the political pressure they’ll be under not to give Trump a win.”

Only one of the 21 justices in the New York State’s Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department, where Trump would initially appeal, is a Republican appointee. All 20 other judges were appointed by Democrat governors.

“Unfortunately for the country, we won’t get the results of any appeal any time soon,” Hakes told the DCNF. “It’s a sad day for justice in America.”

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