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How Trump Business Records Charge Differs From Other Cases

A New York lawyer was accused of stealing $1.2 million from his law firm and covering it up. An insurance broker was accused of taking $350,000 from a client and covering it up. A former president was accused of orchestrating a $130,000 hush-money payment to a porn star and covering it up. All three men were prosecuted by Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg and each faced the same felony charge: falsifying business records. The charge can be elevated from a misdemeanor to a felony if the defendant falsified the records in an attempt to commit or conceal a second crime. Although the district attorney is not required to identify the second crime at the case's outset, Bragg prosecuted both the lawyer and the insurance broker for additional crimes — including grand larceny — telegraphing why their false records charges were bumped up to felonies. Only former president Trump was indicted for falsifying business records and no other crimes.

A New York Times analysis of about 30 false business records cases brought by Bragg and his predecessor shows that in this respect, the case against Trump stands apart. In all but two of the indictments reviewed, the defendant was charged with an additional crime on top of the false records charge. The decision to charge Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records — and no other crimes — highlights the unique nature of the case. Bragg, a Democrat, has drawn criticism from Trump’s allies, who say that he bumped up the charges to a felony for political reasons. Bragg says the Trump indictment is unusual because the facts are unusual as well, and the charge must fit the facts: Trump is accused of covering up a payoff to a porn star to bury a sex scandal in the days before a presidential election. Trump’s lawyers are seeking to move the case from New York state court to federal court. The former president’s lawyers may be using the request to move the case as a way to gain more clarity on the second crime.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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