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Sunday March 03, 2024

What does indictment mean for Donald Trump?

Donald Trump was indicted by a New York jury for allegedly making hush money payments made to Stormy Daniels

By Web Desk
March 31, 2023
Donald Trump is the first former president to face criminal charges in US history.— AFP/file
Donald Trump is the first former president to face criminal charges in US history.— AFP/file

The Manhattan District Attorney said on Thursday that a New York grand jury had charged former president Donald Trump on allegations related to hush money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels. But what does indictment mean for Trump?

Donald Trump is the first former president to face criminal charges in US history.

What does indicted mean?

An indictment is essentially a formal written enumeration of the charges against a person. Yet a conviction is not the same as an indictment.

The indictment allows Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg to pursue criminal charges against Trump. Yet as of Thursday night, the precise charge or charges Trump is facing were still unknown and had not been made public.

When a suspect is charged with a crime and a grand jury finds sufficient evidence to support the accusation, the prosecution can continue its investigation.

Prosecutors may use a grand jury voluntarily or are forced to do so depending on the jurisdiction and the case. Or, they occasionally have the choice to file charges without any help from a grand jury. Depending on the state, this may change.

What does indictment mean for Trump?

In a high-profile case like this one, prosecutors may decide to use a grand jury as a form of self-defence, according to CBS News. Prosecutors may also use specialised grand juries in some jurisdictions for particular matters.

What did Trump do?

Why is Trump indicted? In 2016, a few days before Trump was elected president, adult film star Stormy Daniels received a wire transfer for $130,000 from Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen. Daniels claimed this was hush money. 

The image shows US President Donald Trump (left) and adult film star Stormy Daniels (right). — AFP/File
The image shows US President Donald Trump (left) and adult film star Stormy Daniels (right). — AFP/File

What does hush money mean? Daniels received the money in return for keeping silent about a supposed liaison she had with Trump.

In connection with the payments made to Daniels, Cohen pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion and campaign finance violations in 2018. He was given a three-year prison sentence but was freed in the middle of the COVID-19 epidemic in mid-2020.

What happens after indictment?

Could Trump go to jail? A lot of people are asking this question. The answer is that it depends, not only on the charges brought against him but also, if anything, on the verdict.

According to reports, Bragg was thinking about filing charges of fabricating financial records while committing another felony, maybe a campaign finance infraction, reported the Washington Post. According to New York state law, that would be a low-level felony that may result in up to four years in jail.

Nonetheless, charges can be dropped, sentences are determined on a case-by-case basis, and it is uncommon for someone without a criminal history to receive a lengthy prison term for a nonviolent, low-level felony offence.

This means, Trump will not necessarily go to jail.