Trump's indictment will test New York's legal system, and I'm excited for it
In 1985, in the Big Apple, a young up-and-coming attorney named Rudolph Giuliani put the Italian mafia away for good. He used a combination of financial crimes, racketeering, and a novel new law known as RICO, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, to sweep away one of the biggest blights on the American criminal landscape.
In 2023, Rudolph Giuliani’s former employer faces the prospect of getting swept away by NYC law as well. Former President Donald Trump was arrested last Tuesday, April 4, and will be facing charges of falsifying business payments. Big deal, right?
Very big deal. These charges are big deals, particularly seeing Trump get hit with felony charges is insane. He’s being charged for 34 counts violating New York's Penal Law §175.10, a Class E Felony. A Class E Felony is typically associated with a jail sentence of between one and five years. While a non-violent felon will generally not see their charges run consecutively, this means that if even some of them stick, the former president may be facing jail time.
And that’s… unprecedented. The most recent similar case is Nixon’s indictment that ended with a full pardon from succeeding president Gerald Ford. I get the feeling that Biden may not be as forgiving. As much as these charges seem underwhelming, the state of New York is in dangerous waters. They must ensure not to let anything past them because if they do, not only would the entire investigation fail, but any specific permissions they may have (such as subpoenas and further investigations) are gone. They have one chance to put him away, and this is their best bet.
It’s hard to contain my excitement in this case — and yes, I’m well and fully aware that I’m biased. This is something that’s been brewing since the 2016 elections, and if you read the official charges, they’ve got sections covering the entirety of the 2016 election cycle. They allege a catch-and-kill scheme to censor criticisms, they highlight specific instances of fraud, and they bring up crimes that people had honestly forgotten about. It's the culmination of some excellent detective work, a hardworking team in the New York District Attorney’s office, and the end product of one of the most tortured high-profile cases in history. New York has its case, now can they prove it in court?
What Trump has going for him is his power — and the precedent of finding him guilty. Is there even a way to have this case be impartial? Is there a single person in this country who’s unbiased on Trump? And even if you find someone who is, how do you convince his supporters this is a fair trial? Is that even possible anymore?
To all this, it really depends on the New York justice system. They’re going to start the process soon, and by soon I mean that the first hearing on this case is going to be in December. NYC has a lot of evidence and witnesses, including adult performer Stormy Daniels and Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen; they’re all going to be important in keeping this case alive.
But can they handle the former president? When he surrendered to law enforcement on Tuesday, he went along quietly. There were protests, but the nation isn’t gripped with the chaos many had expected. It’s been surprisingly quiet — and I'm cautiously optimistic. The president could still go scorched-earth, in which case New York City might finally have reason for the stockpile of military surplus equipment they’ve bought over the decades. As of now, it seems like there will not be another January 6.