Trump sentencing delayed as judge weighs Supreme Court immunity ruling

The judge who presided over Donald Trump’s criminal trial in New York agreed on Tuesday to postpone Trump’s sentencing hearing until September as he considers a challenge stemming from the Supreme Court’s decision on presidential immunity.

Justice Juan Merchan informed Trump’s lawyers and Manhattan prosecutors of his decision to delay the July 11 sentencing in response to a pair of letters from the two sides following the Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday. The high court found that former presidents enjoy broad immunity for official acts, and said evidence involving those acts cannot be used in prosecutions over unofficial activity.

Hours after the Supreme Court’s decision was released, Trump’s attorneys asked the court to allow them to file a motion seeking to overturn the verdict in the case by July 10. Prosecutors from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office said that they were not opposed to delaying sentencing until the issue is resolved, and asked for a deadline of July 24 to respond to the defense’s motion.

In a brief response, Merchan approved the proposed schedule and wrote that he’ll render a decision on Trump’s motion on Sept. 6. He set a new sentencing date of Sept. 18, “if such is still necessary.”

On May 30, a unanimous jury found Trump guilty of 34 counts of falsifying business records. Prosecutors said Trump in 2017 signed off on an effort to cover up reimbursements for a “hush money” payment to an adult film star as he ran for office in 2016. 

Trump’s attorneys Todd Blanche and Emil Bove said that their motion will argue that, based on the Supreme Court’s decision, prosecutors should not have been allowed to introduce evidence about official acts Trump took while in office.

Trump’s letter cited a March 7 pretrial motion in which they asked Merchan to bar certain testimony and evidence, particularly pertaining to Trump’s social media posts and public statements while in office that they said were made as official acts.

They said Monday that the “official-acts evidence should never have been put before the jury.”

“The verdicts in this case violate the presidential immunity doctrine and create grave risks of ‘an Executive Branch that cannibalizes itself,'” they wrote in their letter, quoting the Supreme Court’s ruling. The majority ruled that evidence about official acts cannot be introduced “even on charges that purport to be based only on his unofficial conduct.”

Prosecutors said in their response that they believe Trump’s “arguments to be without merit.”

“Although we believe [Trump’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,” Bragg’s team said.

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