Donald Trump pleads not guilty to 34 criminal charges in New York

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Former U.S. President Donald Trump is accompanied by members of his legal team, Susan Necheles and Joe Tacopina, as he appears in court for an arraignment on charges stemming from his indictment by a Manhattan grand jury, April 4, 2023. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Donald Trump, the former U.S. president and front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records after an investigation into hush money paid to a porn star.

Wearing a dark blue suit and red tie, Trump, 76, exhibited little emotion on his face when he waved to a crowd assembled outside the courthouse after he was driven in a motorcade from his New York residence at Trump Tower.

Trump sat with his hands folded as he entered his plea flanked by his lawyers.

“Not guilty,” Trump said when asked how he pleaded.

He is the first sitting or former U.S. president to face criminal charges.

Taken together, the charges carry a maximum sentence of 136 years in prison under New York law but an actual prison sentence if he is convicted at a trial would almost certainly be far less than that.

While falsifying business records in New York on its own is a misdemeanor punishable by no more than one year in prison, it is elevated to a felony punishable by up to four years in prison when done to advance or conceal another crime.

Trump, who has called the charges politically motivated, held his fist in the air in a gesture to reporters as he departed Trump Tower.

Looking somber, Trump said nothing as he walked past police and through a hallway in the courthouse before entering the courtroom for the arraignment proceeding. A photo taken by a photographer in the courtroom authorized by the judge showed Trump sitting at the defense table, flanked by his lawyers.

Trump was indicted by a Manhattan grand jury last week in a case stemming from a 2016 hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels, though the specific charges had yet to be disclosed.

From his motorcade, Trump posted on social media: “Heading to Lower Manhattan, the Courthouse. Seems so SURREAL – WOW, they are going to ARREST ME. Can’t believe this is happening in America.”

Trump was due to surrender to the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg before an arraignment proceeding before Justice Juan Merchan. At an arraignment, a defendant hears charges and can enter a plea. Trump was fingerprinted but no mugshot photo was taken, according to a Twitter post by a New York Times reporter.

In other social media posts ahead of the arraignment, Trump renewed his attacks on Merchan, who last year presided over a trial in which Trump’s real estate company was convicted of tax fraud.

Trump, who served as president from 2017 to 2021, in November announced a bid to regain the presidency in 2024 in a bid to deny Democratic President Joe Biden, who beat him in 2020, a second term in the White House.

Trump’s lawyers had urged the judge to block any videography, photography and radio coverage, arguing it would worsen “an already almost circus-like atmosphere.”

The businessman-turned-politician has been a familiar figure for decades in New York, the city where he was raised, built his real estate business and became a celebrity.

On a cool and sunny early spring day in the most-populous U.S. city, Trump supporters and detractors were separated by barricades set up by police to try to keep order, though there were some confrontations.

“Let’s keep it civil, folks,” a police officer told them.

Hundreds of Trump supporters, at a park across from the Manhattan courthouse, cheered and blew whistles, outnumbering his detractors. The Trump critics held signs including one of Trump dressed in a striped jail uniform behind bars and another that read, “Lock Him Up.”

SOURCE: REUTERS

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