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Yale Law professor says Trump is NOT a convicted felon yet, explains how ‘guilty’ verdict can be overturned before election


A law professor laid out an unbiased assessment of the “dangerous precedent” set by the guilty verdict handed down in former President Donald Trump’s hush-money case.

Yale Law Professor Jed Rubenfeld launched into the first episode of his show, “Straight Down the Middle” with a look at the verdict and its Constitutional implications. An expert expert on constitutional law and the First Amendment, Rubenfeld also delivered a brilliant and unbiased “next steps” breakdown for the former president’s legal team that potentially could help overturn the guilty verdict – and all before November’s election.

“Could Trump actually be put in jail? You bet he could,” Rubenfeld said after establishing that the presumptive 2024 Republican nominee can still run for office, even if behind bars.

“Each count of this 34-count indictment has a maximum penalty attached to it of four years. Well, that’s four times 34. That’s a maximum sentence, prison sentence of 136 years,” he explained, asking of Judge Juan Merchan, “Will he do that? Of course not. He won’t. But could he sentence him to some incarceration? Yes, he could. Will he? Nobody knows.”

He noted that between now and July 11, the date Merchan set for sentencing Trump, some things will likely happen.

“Trump’s team will ask for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict,” he said.

“They’ll ask for Judge Merchan to throw out the jury’s verdict and find Trump innocent despite the verdict, and Judge Merchan will turn that down,” Rubedfeld predicted. “Then there will be arguments about what the sentence should be, briefing on both sides, possibly even a hearing. Then on July 11th, sentencing will be announced. And at that point, that triggers the Trump team’s right to appeal.”

“To what court would they appeal?” the legal scholar continued.

“Well, they would appeal to New York’s appellate level court… And after the appellate court rules, then the case could go up to New York’s highest court, which is actually called the Court of Appeals… And after that, the case could go up to the Supreme Court,” Rubedfeld explained.

“And ultimately it might well go to the Supreme Court where finally we will have a definitive, conclusive ruling on whether the conviction was constitutional or not,” he said, noting “that could take years.”

This, Rubenfeld contended, is a big “problem.”

“Why is it a problem? It’s a problem because the election will have taken place and if this conviction is unlawful and unconstitutional, it could have an effect on that election,” he said.

“There are surveys, many polls in which a substantial number of American voters say they will not vote for Trump if he is convicted of a felony. Many independents say that, many Republicans even say that. If that’s true, an unlawful conviction in this case could interfere with and, in fact, decide the outcome of the next election of the next President of the United States,” Rubenfeld noted.

“Even if the conviction were reversed on appeal years later, that effect could not be undone in legal terms. That’s called irreparable harm. The irreparable harm, once again, is that a ‘convicted felon’ could affect the election, could decide the election.,” the professor illustrated. “And if so, then District Attorney Bragg and Judge Merchan will have unlawfully interfered with the election and decided the outcome of the next election through unconstitutional means. And no years-long appeal could have any effect on that.”

At this point, the author and constitutional expert “another avenue” that can be pursued.

“Well, is that where we are? So are we stuck with that possibility? Well, believe it or not, there is one other avenue that the Trump lawyers could pursue. They could sue in federal court and ask for an emergency temporary restraining order,” he said.

“Restraining order of what? Well, let me tell you something that you might not know. You’ve probably been reading in the press, if you’ve been reading about this case, that Trump is already a convicted felon: ‘The jury has convicted him. He’s a convicted felon.’ Well, guess what? That’s not true,” Rubenfeld declared.

“You’re not a convicted felon because of a jury verdict. You’re not convicted unless the judge enters a judgment of guilt against you. The judge still has the power, as I told you before, to throw out that verdict and enter a judgment of acquittal. You are not convicted until the judge enters that judgment of guilt,” he explained.

“Now in New York, it’s very likely that Judge Merchan will enter that judgment of guilt against Trump on the same day that he issued sentencing. That’d be July 11th,” he continued.

“So what would this federal case be about in this federal action? Trump would sue District Attorney Bragg and other state actors and ask the judge, the federal judge, for an emergency temporary restraining order halting Judge Merchan from entering that judgment of guilt until the federal courts have had an opportunity to review and rule on the serious constitutional arguments that exist here,” the professor laid out.

“Let me tell you why I think that might be a very important thing to happen. Because going after, criminally, a former president of the United States and somebody who is running for president now, that’s a very bad look for this country,” he added in an argument made by many in the last days, regardless of political bent.

“It’s an especially bad look when the folks bringing the case and the judge deciding it are members of the opposing political party. And it’s an even worse look when the crime is so unclear that the state is hiding the ball about what the actual charges are right up through the trial and, indeed, into the trial,” Rubenfeld said.

“And even now, we don’t know exactly what the jury found Trump guilty of,” he added, contending that  “You better have the goods” and “not be pursuing some novel legal theory where you have to hide the ball. It’s not even clear what the charges are.”

“That could be a very dangerous precedent for this country. A very bad and dangerous precedent,” he warned.

“That’s why it’s so important for a federal court to review the constitutionality of this prosecution and decide, was it constitutional, was it not?” he went on, laying out a potential course of action for Trump’s lawyers.

“The only way to achieve that before the election takes place is for the Trump team to file an action in federal court and ask the federal court to temporarily hold off the entry of the judgment of guilt until the federal courts and maybe the Supreme Court itself can, on an emergency basis, adjudicate the likelihood of success of these constitutional arguments,” he detailed.

“If that doesn’t happen, then that irreparable harm danger that I mentioned before, well that’s where we are,” Rubenfeld said.”But if it does happen, the nation could get a ruling from the federal courts, even the Supreme Court of the United States, before the election takes place.”

“Maybe that’s what the nation needs and maybe that’s what the law requires here,” he concluded. “So if I were Trump’s lawyer, that’s probably what I would do.”

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