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Judge in Trump’s criminal hush money case postpones sentencing to Sept. 18

judge-in-trump’s-criminal-hush-money-case-postpones-sentencing-to-sept.-18

Judge in Trump’s criminal hush money case postpones sentencing to Sept. 18

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — The judge overseeing former President Donald Trump’s criminal hush money case in New York has postponed sentencing to Sept. 18, according to a letter sent to the parties.

The move came after the Manhattan district attorney’s office said earlier Tuesday it would not oppose Trump’s request to file a motion arguing that his hush money conviction should be tossed based on Monday’s Supreme Court ruling on presidential immunity.

“Although we believe defendant’s arguments to be without merit, we do not oppose his request for leave to file and his putative request to adjourn sentencing pending determination of his motion,” assistant district attorney Josh Steinglass wrote in a letter to Judge Juan Merchan.

On Monday, just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling that Trump has some presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for actions taken to overturn results of the 2020 election, Trump’s attorneys sent a letter to Judge Merchan asking to him to “set aside the jury’s verdict” in his hush money case.

Judge Merchan, in his response, signaled to the parties that he would rule on Trump’s motion to set aside his conviction on Sept. 6.

He gave Trump until July 10 to submit papers and the DA’s office until July 24 to respond.

Sentencing had originally been scheduled for July 11, just days before Trump will claim the Republican nomination. Merchan has now set sentencing for Sept. 18 at 10 a.m. ET.

Trump in May was found guilty on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to a 2016 hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in order to boost his electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election.

In the defense’s letter to Judge Merchan, which was made public Tuesday, defense attorneys argued Trump’s conviction should be thrown out because prosecutors relied on evidence and testimony they believe should have been protected by presidential immunity, including several of Trump’s tweets, a government ethics form, and the testimony of former Trump aide Hope Hicks.

“The verdicts in this case violate the presidential immunity doctrine and create grave risks of ‘an Executive Branch that cannibalizes itself,'” defense attorney Todd Blanche wrote. “After further briefing on these issues beginning on July 10, 2024, it will be manifest that the trial result cannot stand.”

Defense lawyers highlighted testimony from Hicks, who said Trump preferred the story of his alleged affair with Stormy Daniels — which he denies — come out after the 2016 election.

“I think Mr. Trump’s opinion was it was better to be dealing with it now, and that it would have been bad to have that story come out before the election,” Hicks testified. Prosecutor Josh Steinglass called the testimony “devastating.”

“She basically burst into tears a few minutes — a few seconds after that because she realized how much this testimony puts the nail in Mr. Trump’s coffin,” Steinglass said during his closing argument.

The defense appears to be relying on a portion of the Supreme Court opinion that said, “Testimony or private records of the President or his advisers probing such conduct may not be admitted as evidence at trial.”

Trump’s lawyers also argued that Trump’s social media posts about his former lawyer Michael Cohen, a 2018 filing from the Office of Government Ethics, and phone records from Trump’s time in office should have not been allowed.

During Trump’s effort to remove the state case to federal court in 2023, Judge Alvin Hellerstein determined that Trump’s alleged conduct in the case was “purely a personal item” outside of Trump’s official duties.

“The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the matter was purely a personal item of the President — a cover-up of an embarrassing event,” Hellerstein wrote in a July 2023 decision denying Trump’s effort to remove the case to federal court. “Hush money paid to an adult film star is not related to a President’s official acts. It does not reflect in any way the color of the President’s official duties.”

Monday’s Supreme Court ruling determined that Trump is entitled to “at least presumptive immunity” from criminal prosecution for official acts taken while in office.

Trump’s hush money case is the second of his four criminal cases to be impacted by the ruling, which sent Trump’s federal election interference case back to the U.S. district court to determine which acts alleged in special counsel Jack Smith’s indictment constitute official duties that could be protected from liability and which are not.

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