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Donald Trump's mugshot after he was arrested in 2023 on charges of plotting to overturn the state's 2020 election results. =
now what

Trump's been found guilty - but could he go to jail?

‘Yes’ is the short answer – but the judge could opt for a far more lenient penalty.


‘BOMBSHELL VERDICT’, IS, arguably an overused phrase – but in this case, at least, it’s appropriate. 

Donald Trump today became the first former US president to be convicted of felony crimes after a New York jury found him guilty of falsifying business records in a scheme to illegally influence the 2016 election through hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels. 

The former president – who has described the process as “a disgrace” and “a rigged trial” – is set to be sentenced on 11 July. 

Trump, of course, is also vying to take back the White House from Joe Biden in November’s election. 

But could he be sent to prison in the meantime? 

‘Yes’ is the short answer – but it’s hard to predict with much certainty what might happen. 

Legal analysts who have been giving their opinions across US networks in recent weeks have noted that while Trump could theoretically be given a lengthy sentence, he could end up facing a far lighter penalty.

As CNN chief legal analyst Laura Coates noted last week, “because the crimes involve nonviolent offences and Trump does not have a criminal record, the judge could consider jailing him for a period that is but a fraction of the maximum penalty”.

“Another possibility is that the judge could forego prison entirely and place him on probation with the possibility of incarceration looming over his head if he fails to abide by the conditions set by the judge.

“If the judge should decide to incarcerate post-conviction, Secret Service would become the elephant in the, well, cell. 

“The unprecedented nature of incarcerating a former president would raise questions about how best to ensure equal treatment under the law and security for a former president.”

Speaking to CBS News, former Manhattan prosecutor Duncan Levin agreed – noting that judges in New York state courts have broad authority to determine sentences.

Judge Juan Merchan, who oversaw the case, said earlier this month that was concerned about the burden jailing Trump would place on people working within the justice system. 

As he handed down yet another fine to Trump for contempt of court, he said he was worried “about the people who would have to execute that sanction: the court officers, the correction officers, the Secret Service detail, among others”. 

He added: “Of course, I’m also aware of the broader implications of such a sanction. The magnitude of such a decision is not one-sided.

“But, at the end of the day, I have a job to do, and part of that job is to protect the dignity of the judicial system and compel respect.”

No surprise

Larry Donnelly, a law lecturer at NUI Galway and columnist on US politics for The Journal, wasn’t surprised at the verdict.

“The prosecution did a very very good job of presenting what was, I think, a weak case, and the defence did a very poor job in coming back.

“All credit to the prosecution. They knew they had a difficult legal theory to prove. Anytime something is difficult to explain to lawyers as it is, you can imagine how difficult it is to explain to a jury.”

He added: “I don’t think Donald Trump did himself any favours with how he conducted himself.”

Donnelly says he’ll “definitely” appeal – and will likely be successful – but the process will take months and wouldn’t be complete until “well after” any election.

Even though it’s highly unlikely Trump will get a custodial sentence, in Donnelly’s view this verdict will still have a significant impact on the the general election.

The people “in the middle” – who could vote for either Trump or Biden – will now have to decide if they want a convicted felon for president. 

While it’s never happened before in US history, there’s nothing barring Trump from becoming president if he’s sent to jail. 

He also faces three other felony indictments, but the New York case may be the only one to reach a conclusion before November.


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Daragh Brophy and Mairead Maguire