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Trump trial verdict: Jury finds ex-president guilty on all counts in hush money case

Laura Italiano,Jacob Shamsian,Natalie Musumeci   

Trump trial verdict: Jury finds ex-president guilty on all counts in hush money case
  • The Manhattan jury in Donald Trump's hush-money trial has reached a verdict.
  • He was found guilty of all 34 felony counts related to a hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels.

It's official — former President Donald Trump is now a convicted felon.

Trump, the 77-year-old presumptive Republican presidential nominee, was found guilty of all 34 criminal counts of falsifying business records to cover up a $130,000 hush-money payment to adult film actor Stormy Daniels just 11 days before the 2016 election.

The 12 jurors deliberated in the Manhattan courthouse for less than 10 hours over two days, telling the judge that they had reached a verdict at 4:20 p.m. on Thursday afternoon.

Trump sat still after the verdict was read, with his hands in his lap, looking forward.

As the jurors filed into the courtroom, none of them looked at him.

The jury foreman stood leaning with his left hand on the wooden bar in front of his jury seat as he read "guilty" for each count.

In his right hand, he held the three-page verdict sheet, but did not look at it as he read the verdict to the judge.

After they completed reading the verdict, several of the twelve jurors appeared relieved, even smiling. Others seemed grim, as if stricken by the significance of what they had just done.

As the judge, New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, announced a July 11 sentencing date, Trump closed his eyes, as he had done through much of the trial.

At the heart of the criminal case against Trump was a payment that prosecutors said was designed to influence the 2016 election.

Michael Cohen, Trump's longtime personal lawyer and fixer, bought Daniels' silence over a sexual encounter the porn star says she had with Trump at a Lake Tahoe hotel suite in 2006 during a celebrity golf tournament, according to prosecutors. Trump repaid Cohen with a series of checks in 2017, once he was already president, prosecutors alleged.

Trump has denied having sex with Daniels and has attacked the Manhattan district attorney office's case against him as a political "witch hunt" and a "scam."

The former president has also repeatedly slammed Merchan, who presided over the trial, as "totally conflicted" and "corrupt."

Trump faces a sentence of anywhere from zero jail time up to a maximum of four years in prison.

Over the course of the trial, Merchan held Trump in contempt of court 10 times for violating his gag order, which may become a factor in the sentence. But the odds of Trump spending any time behind bars are still low, with probation a more likely outcome.

A historic trial with tawdry details

The verdict follows the first-ever criminal trial of a former American president.

It comes after a marathon 11-hour day of closing arguments, where lawyers from each side presented their competing versions of events to the jury.

Jurors heard testimony from 20 prosecution witnesses — including Daniels and Cohen — for more than five weeks in a packed and chilly 15th-floor downtown Manhattan courtroom.

Cohen, the prosecution's star witness, testified how Trump was the one who directed him to make the hush-money payment to Daniels just before the 2016 election.

And Daniels, in graphic detail, told jurors about the sex she says she had with the then-"Apprentice" star.

Trump's lawyers presented a brief — but tumultuous — defense case. They put Robert Costello, a criminal defense lawyer who had previous dealings with Cohen, on the witness stand. Costello called Cohen untrustworthy, but his testimony may have backfired after the judge erupted at him for scoffing at his rulings.

Prosecutors alleged that Trump falsified 34 business documents throughout 2017, including in his first week as president, when they said he reimbursed Cohen for paying Daniels the hush money.

Trump paid Cohen back, prosecutors said, in a series of 11 checks, nine of them bearing Trump's handwritten signature — and the jury got to see those records at trial.

Much of Cohen's most damning testimony in the trial came when he quoted what he described as Trump's own words.

"'Just take care of it,'" Cohen said Trump told him in ordering him to quash Daniels' sex story.

Trump "wasn't thinking about Melania — this was all about the campaign," Cohen told jurors.

In opening statements at the trial, prosecutor Matthew Colangelo described the case against Trump as being about a "criminal conspiracy," while Blanche likened hush money to "democracy."

While Merchan kept the inside of his courtroom moving briskly and professionally, Trump and protesters politicized the atmosphere on the outside. In almost-daily hallway press conferences and Truth Social posts, he attacked the proceedings as unfair and alleged without evidence that the case was orchestrated by President Joe Biden.

In the park across the street from the courthouse, the tone occasionally veered into delirium, with his political allies hosting press conferences that were pranked by protesters, supporters floating vulgar balloons into the air, and a press conference from Biden supporter Robert De Niro during closing arguments.

On the day the verdict was announced, Trump had a relatively small crew with him. His son, Eric Trump, was the only family member in the room. He sat in the front row of the courtroom gallery with one of his father's civil attorneys, Alina Habba, and Secret Service agents.

When the verdict was read — the word "guilty" ringing out 34 times — the former president's son looked furious.

As the elder Trump left, he gave his son a handshake but carried a deflated posture.

Trump still has three remaining criminal cases. Two of them — in Washington, DC, and Georgia — are over his alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. The other, in Florida, concerns him taking classified government documents to Mar-a-Lago after leaving the presidency.

Blanche had asked for a sentencing date in July to steer clear of hearings for Trump's Florida case in June, which Merchan assented to.

None of Trump's other criminal cases are expected to go to trial before the 2024 election.

This story has been updated.

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