Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty personally to 34 felony charges as he appeared before a New York court. He is the first ex-US president to be charged with criminal offenses.
He is accused of falsifying company records. A felony is a crime that can be punished by at least one year in prison.
The combined charges carry a maximum sentence for 136 years in prison under New York law. However, if he is convicted of the charges at trial, the sentence would almost certainly be much shorter.
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The grand jury indictment against Trump has been released. It accuses him of having directed three instances of hush-money payments to cover up his alleged affairs.
Prosecutors claim that the payments were part of a conspiracy to “undermine the integrity of 2016’s election” through a “catch-and-kill scheme”.
Trump is accused of paying $130,000 (PS104,000), to porn star Stormy Daniels 12 before the 2016 presidential election.
The order was made to stop her discussing the alleged sexual encounter she claimed she had with Trump in a Lake Tahoe hotel in 2006.
He is also accused in a $150,000 (PS120,000), payment to Karen McDougal, ex-Playboy model. This was to prevent her from making public an allegation that she had sex at his house.
He denied ever having sex with any of the women and denied any wrongdoing that involved payments.
According to prosecutors, a third allegation centers around an alleged $30,000 payment (PS24,000), to a former Trump Tower Doorman. He claimed to have a story about Trump’s child out of wedlock.
Trump’s ex-personal lawyer Michael Cohen claimed that Trump directed him to make the $130,000 payment for Ms Daniels.
Trump acknowledged that he paid the money, and the Trump Organization recorded the reimbursement as legal expenses.
Trump, now 76, was previously arrested after his arrival at Manhattan Criminal Courthouse.
The Republican frontrunner for the White House in 2024 gave up to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in the same building as the historic hearing.
He was wearing a dark blue suit with a red tie. His fingerprints were taken and processed. It was not clear if he had a mugshot.
Unapologetic, a stony-faced Trump made his way to courtroom without saying anything. During the proceedings, he was not handcuffed.
As he entered his plea, he sat down with his hands folded in front of his lawyers. Trump declared, “Not guilty.”
He called the indictment a witch-hunt and claimed it was politically motivated because the District Attorney Alvin Bragg is a Democrat.
Trump claims that the probe is an attempt by Trump to undermine his bid to retake power in the White House next year.
Before he was escorted by his Secret Service security team to Manhattan Criminal Courthouse, he had pumped his fist before he left Trump Tower.
He wrote on his social media platform Truth Social: “Heading down to Lower Manhattan, The Courthouse. It seems so SURREAL. WOW, they are going TO ARREST ME. This is unbelievable! MAGA!”
After Judge Juan Merchan’s ruling, television cameras were banned from the courtroom. However, five still photographers were allowed to access the room before the hearing started to take photos of Trump and the scene.
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