What happens if the ex-president is indicted in New York?


Former US President Donald Trump is facing charges in New York.

  • If Trump is charged in New York, he will be treated like any other defendant, but with important exceptions.
  • Trump would be fingerprinted, wiped for the state DNA database and photographed for his mug shot.
  • But he probably won’t be “perp-walked” in front of the cameras, and handcuffs are unlikely either.

Don’t rely on handcuffs.

Don’t expect a dramatic, flash-dappled gangster gang. But yes, there will be a mug shot, fingerprints and a mandatory DNA cheek swab – and a “not guilty” plea, though not necessarily in court.

If Donald Trump is indicted in New York, as is becoming increasingly likely, it will be because of his strident denial of wrongdoing. This week he “upheld” that prosecutors were a “fraud, injustice, ridicule and a full and complete arming of law enforcement to affect a presidential election!”

He will be treated like any other defendant, with many important exceptions.

Here are predictions of how this historic event would play out, courtesy of some of Manhattan’s top defense attorneys, former senior prosecutors, and a retired Secret Service special agent.

In what exact millisecond is Trump officially a perpetrator?

Trump would be formally indicted the moment the grand jury foreman signs his indictment, a document listing the allegations the former president is said to have committed.

This could happen immediately, right after the grand jury votes on the indictment.

“It’s called ‘rocking through,'” explains Diana Florence, a former white-collar crimes prosecutor with the Manhattan Attorney’s Office.

But that foreman’s signature could also come days after the vote, Florence said.

“Prosecutors can say we don’t have the draft indictment ready,” Florence said, especially when the grand jury votes “yes” on some counts and “no” on others.

“You can tell the foreman to come back in two weeks or so, starting Wednesday,” Florence said, signing the revised indictment.

As long as that signature lasts, it’s not until that pivotal moment – pen on paper – that Trump would become the first former president in history to face criminal prosecution.

So what will it say?

The consensus among experts, Trump’s defense team, and a trail of breadcrumbs left for hungry reporters by star witness Michael Cohen is this: If there are any indictments, they’ll likely list multiple counts of forgery of business documents.

These minor offenses will likely relate to the hush money payment to Stormy Daniels on Election Night 2016. They carry a potential maximum sentence of four years in prison. But a judge could also award a sentence of just zero plus probation.

can we see it Can we? Please?

Not so fast.

The indictment begins as a sealed document. The ink, while still wet, is returned to the prosecutor and then shipped sealed to the central clerk whose office manages Manhattan crime paperwork.

There, the indictment is assigned an identifying case number, placed in a wide, otherwise empty folder called an indictment case, and then stashed in a locked file where not even Trump or his attorneys can access it.

In those early hours and days, only the grand jury, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, and a few select prosecutors who actually worked the case knew what was in this gaping, hypothetical indictment.

Of course, there can always be a leak somewhere between the indictment and the indictment, namely the trial at which Trump would plead not guilty.

And prosecutors could always ask the judge to unseal the case early, according to veteran Manhattan defense attorney Ron Kuby, “given the public interest in the case.”

But typically, the physical indictment—in stapled, printed form—is only given to the defense team in a courtroom during the indictment.

Whenever the judge unseals it — either at the indictment or earlier at Bragg’s request — the prosecution will likely quickly release PDF copies to the press and post them on the prosecutor’s website. At that point, the historical document will blast Twitter feeds worldwide.

Who gives Trump the message?

That would be his lawyers.

“Of course, as a prosecutor, you call the defense attorney and say, ‘Okay, he’s been charged and the charges have been filed,'” Florence said.

“The prosecutor will say, ‘We’re looking at March 27th’ or something like that. ‘How does that work for you?’ And then negotiate the date they surrender.”

Once the surrender date is agreed, “everyone will find out” that Trump has been charged, even if the charges themselves remain classified, predicts Kuby.

“Half the DA’s office and their husbands and wives will know once they set a surrender date. All of Trumpville will know,” Kuby said. “Between the two it will be out in two hours.”

Then Trump turns himself in?

That usually happens with indictments against business attorneys, said Karen Friedman Agnifilo, a former chief assistant at the Manhattan Attorney’s Office.

The defendant surrenders at an appointed time on the agreed date at DA headquarters in Lower Manhattan and is immediately placed in the custody of DA investigators — armed peace officers who are often former NYPD police officers.

At this point, if things go that way, Trump would be “under arrest,” Friedman told Agnifilo.

He would be taken to the seventh or ninth floor in the elevator to be booked. DA investigators would take his fingerprints and mug shot. They would wipe his cheek for a mandatory sample for the New York DNA database. They would take his “pedigree” information.

“You’re lying about your height, lying about your weight,” snapped Kuby. “‘I’m six foot two and 205 pounds.’ Are you sure. Hair color? ‘Orange.'”

A little intelligence detail would accompany Trump at every step – upon his arrival, at booking and while he waits for his prints to come back clean from the FBI database, meaning no outstanding warrants.

They would be there when he is then escorted to the prosecution’s courtroom, by the prosecution itself and as he leaves.

“The service will not abandon its mission,” says Bill Pickle, the former special agent in charge of Al Gore’s vice presidential command.

Pickle predicts that given the long, fortunate relationship between the Secret Service and New York law enforcement — in the one city presidents visit most often — all of these details can easily be worked out.

“You’ll never leave him, no,” Pickle said of Trump’s detail.

Once his fingerprints come back, if Trump were any other high-profile business man, he would be led in handcuffs by DA investigators down a hallway of the courthouse — while the press from behind barricades yelled and filmed — to the courtroom.

There he would see the paper indictment for the first time and plead not guilty, or his attorneys would plead not guilty on his behalf.

So this is how it will go?

It’s a very possible scenario.

Bragg, the district attorney, could well choose to do so by the book, without preferential treatment, and Trump would go from surrender to indictment to indictment like any other indictment defendant.

But nothing about this surrender, booking and indictment will be typical, experts predict.

But they have to arrest him, right? When is he charged?

To calm oneself down. Not necessarily.

Trump could be indicted without ever spending a moment in custody, according to a former top prosecutor in the office of former Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.

“My strong bet, and I would do it, is that they don’t arrest him,” the ex-prosecutor said anonymously, as they were not authorized to comment on the case.

“Instead, the court could issue him with a criminal subpoena,” an order directing him to appear for the arraignment, they said. “It would appear in court and then be printed before or after. No handcuffs.”

Would you do that? “Who knows,” they said. “But logistically it’s the only thing that makes sense. Some would criticize that he’s being treated differently. Okay. He’s different. And that’s unprecedented. I wouldn’t arrest him or, worst case scenario, let him do his thing.” behind the courtroom.”

So he still has to go to court?

Again not necessarily.

“It’s possible they could agree on a virtual charge and go through the booking process later, which isn’t typical, but they could do that,” Kuby said.

“The judge would have to agree, the defense and the prosecution would have to agree, and there would have to be a follow-up,” Kuby said in order for Trump to be printed, a mug shot and a swab taken.

“But there is no legal reason why a defendant cannot appear virtually for his indictment.”

Charge him virtually? What?

I know. The biggest courtroom drama in US Presidency history could well be broadcast on Zoom.

Trump could do it all from Mar-a-Lago, in a suit and pajama bottoms.

No handcuffs? No perp walk?

All of this would ultimately be Bragg’s decision.

But even if Trump were to surrender in person, the Secret Service would likely give the perpetrator a hard pass.

“This walk is not going to happen,” said Pickle, the former Secret Service special agent. “You will not expose him to people who could harm him.”

“I suspect,” he added, “this is going to be a much quieter event than you imagine.”

Even left-leaning defenders believe showing Trump in handcuffs would expose Bragg, a Democrat, to charges of election interference and political bias.

A picture of Trump in handcuffs could also enrage Trump’s base.

It would look bad all around, Kuby said.

“I mean, the man is loved by 20 percent of the American population. Granted, they’re fascist psychos,” Kuby said dryly.

“But still. Why contribute to a perception of injustice?”

Would Trump stay out on bail?

Yes. It’s pretty much certain that Trump would remain at large, and probably without bail at all.

Under New York’s recently reformed progressive bail laws, defendants can only be held on bail if the judge determines they pose a risk of absconding.

“Fortunately, under current bail laws, you can’t check if he poses a threat to the community,” quipped Kuby, a self-confessed liberal.

“I think nine out of ten legal professionals would say that Donald Trump is a clear and present danger, but these bright liberals have prevented that with the New York bail laws,” he added.

“Oh, if only they could consider the future dangerousness and the likelihood of another crime like the old days,” he joked.

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