Trump catches criminal charges

Former president faces jail time on accusations of bribing porn star for silence


Mazzy Warren

For the first time in US history, a former president has been indicted and arrested, as Donald Trump now faces 34 felony counts for falsifying New York business records.

Mazzy Warren, Managing Editor

Sitting on the couch, junior Skye Farris grabs the TV remote and flips through the channels. She pauses as she lands on the Daily Show, a favorite in her house. Her eyes are pulled to the breaking-news headline which rests boldly at the bottom of the screen, declaring: MANHATTAN GRAND JURY VOTES TO INDICT FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP. Farris’ jaw drops as she listens in.

For the first time in US history, a former president has been indicted and arrested, as Donald Trump now faces 34 felony counts for falsifying New York business records. Some believe his lawyers will challenge the charges on the basis of their unclarity; these charges are rooted in a $130,000 payment made to buy porn star Stormy Daniels’ silence over an affair that took place before the 2016 election. Farris thought it was about time he got caught; street law teacher Ethan Owens is stunned the charges made it through.

“I’ve had mixed feelings about it,” Owens said. “Part of me is surprised; the other part of me is definitely not so surprised. I’m surprised that they’re willing to charge a former official like Donald Trump, because it’s never happened before. But at the same time, I’m not surprised, because of the political climate and the way people have gone after Trump and his companions in these last few years.”

This case was based in New York, presided over by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. There are no state laws that ban hush money payments, like those Trump has made; however, falsifying business records to hide said payments is a crime.

“This is such a stupid thing to be caught on,” Farris said. “I feel like there was an easier, smarter way for him to handle that situation, and Trump has done so many other things he should have gotten in trouble for. But at least he got caught, and there’s a ton of charges against him.”

 The 34 counts would usually be misdemeanors, which are lower-level charges that wouldn’t result in prison time. However, Bragg believes the documents were falsified to conceal crimes related to the 2016 election, allowing prosecutors to raise the charges to felonies, which carry up to four years behind bars.

“I think these charges were justified, because he’s definitely done lots of things wrong, and been a bad politician,” junior Maddox Brown said. “But it is a little sketchy to only give Trump these felony charges based on Bragg’s own suspicion.”

There are so many good ways to use all this money Trump has, but he just pays off people he’s had affairs with. It’s a waste.

— Skye Farris, Junior

According to Brown, Braggs may not have presented enough evidence to warrant the charges. She believes they will be dismissed if Trump’s lawyers decide to appeal. Legal observers were surprised that the indictment wasn’t more specific on how each misdemeanor was raised to a felony, which leads many to believe the defense, Trump’s lawyers, will attack Bragg’s decision.

“I think that, if Trump’s lawyers choose to attack the charges, the charges will definitely change,” Brown said. “Trump’s an ex-president, so he’s going to have lawyers who are good enough at their jobs to affect his charges. In an ideal world, they would stay felonies, but if the evidence only says misdemeanors, they should stay misdemeanors.”

Prosecutors also cited $30,000 made out to a former Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about a child resulting from an affair. They also referenced a separate $150,000 payment to Playboy model Karen McDougal, which was also spent to keep an alleged affair secret.

“Trump is spending so much money, basically just throwing it out, to keep himself from facing trouble,” Farris said. “There are so many good ways to use all this money he clearly has, for positive things, but he just pays off people he’s had affairs with. It’s a waste.”

This case is just one of Trump’s legal woes, though, as Georgia prosecutors investigate Trump’s involvement in the January 6 insurrection. Federal prosecutors are investigating Trump’s potential mishandling of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago home.

Mazzy Warren

“I’m willing to bet that if he gets snagged on one case, it’ll be a domino effect after that,”  Owens said. “Once one prosecutor wins one case, another one is going to win in a constant domino fall. But that pendulum could swing back in the other direction, and if he’s acquitted, that could give a huge boost to his campaign in 2024. If prosecutors want to prevent Trump from re-election, they need a win here.”

Despite these hurdles, Trump still plans to run for a second term in the 2024 presidential election. There are no Constitutional restrictions that prevent people indicted or convicted of a crime (or even currently serving prison time) from running for president. Owens believes this case will determine the fate of the next presidential election.

“If Trump is acquitted, then Republicans would have no choice but to fully back him,” Owens said. “He’d be boosted hugely by losing the charges. If his lawyers do lose to Bragg, then Republicans have no choice but to dump all their support to Florida governor Ron DeSantis. This trial will determine the Republican nominee in 2024.”

Owens believes it’s important that students follow this case because, even if they can’t vote, this case sets precedents that will affect their future roles as voters controlling the politics and law in this country. This case also proves that presidents do not have supreme power, and, as future voters, students can recognize that they have the ability to create change in the developing world of politics around them.

“This isn’t the first time we’re trying to hold a President accountable,” Owens said. “You guys have the power to implicate government officials, if you’re willing to take the steps, and we need people to do that. Cases like Trump’s show that, even if you have the highest office in the land, you are not in a bubble, and you can be held accountable.”