Legal experts say Trump conviction is a ‘target rich environment’ for appeal

Following the guilty verdict on all counts against former President Trump on Thursday, legal experts say the case brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg will have “reversible problems” when appealed. 

The former president and presumptive 2024 GOP nominee was charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree. Trump pleaded not guilty, but 12 jurors found him guilty on all counts.

Sentencing is slated for July 11, four days before the Republican National Convention. Each count carries a maximum prison sentence of four years. In total, Trump faces a maximum sentence of 136 years behind bars. 

But some legal experts say the trial is “a target rich environment for appeal,” which Trump is expected to do.

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“I believe that the case will be reversed eventually either in the state or federal systems,” Jonathan Turley, constitutional law attorney and Fox News contributor, said Thursday.

“However, this was the worst expectation for a trial in Manhattan,” he said. “I had hoped that the jurors might redeem the integrity of a system that has been used for political purposes.” 

“The trial is a target rich environment for appeal. However, that appeal will stretch beyond the election. In the meantime, Democrats and President Biden can add ‘convicted felon’ to the political mantra,” he said. 

John Malcolm, a former federal prosecutor, told Fox News Digital that he believes the jury’s verdict indicates they were convinced by the testimony of Trump ex-lawyer Michael Cohen – whom Trump’s defense labeled a “GLOAT” or “greatest liar of all time.” 

“The jury obviously ended up believing Michael Cohen, which is something I have a hard time conceiving since Michael Cohen has lied every time he has been under oath in the past and admitted that he hates Donald Trump, blaming him for all his problems, stole from him, and will profit from this conviction,” Malcolm said.

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Prosecutors needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump falsified business records to conceal a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels, a former porn star, in the lead-up to the 2016 election – in an effort to silence her about an alleged affair with Trump in 2006. They were ultimately successful. Trump has denied the affair throughout the trial. 

Gregory Germain, a law professor at Syracuse University College of Law, observed that it was “a terribly risky strategy for Trump to focus on Michael Cohen’s credibility rather than focusing on the convoluted legal basis for the claims.”

“It’s not clear to me what they expected the jury to believe – that Michael Cohen paid $125,000 of his own money to Stormy Daniels without Trump’s knowledge and promise of reimbursement? They did not present an alternative theory that makes any sense, so of course they believed Cohen,” Germain said.

He claims that “a much better argument” would have been “that the records could not have been falsified to defraud the voters in the 2016 election because the records were falsified in 2017 after the election was over, and the records were not public or known by the public.”

“I don’t know how well the legal issues were preserved for appeal or why they didn’t focus on the legal issues. It may be that the judge wouldn’t let the defense make those points. But there are many issues for appeal,” he said. 

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Malcolm observed that the jury instructions given by Judge Juan Merchan “dramatically favored the prosecution, telling them that while they had to unanimously conclude that Trump caused a false business entry to be made for the purpose of concealing ‘another crime.'”

“They did not have to be unanimous as to what that other crime was. This will be one of the many issues that Trump’s legal team will raise on appeal,” Malcolm said, adding that he would “not be surprised if this conviction gets overturned, but that is unlikely to happen before the election.”

Turley added that the verdict – marking the first time in the U.S. a former president has been convicted of a crime – is a moment to have “a leap of faith in the rule of law.” 

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“[F]or those upset by this verdict, remember this remains a country committed to the rule of law and this is going to go up on appeal,” Turley said. “I think it’s going to be reversed in the state or federal systems. But it’s moments like this when you’re on the other side, when you disagree with a verdict, that you have to take a leap of faith in the rule of law. It’s what defines us,” Turley told Fox News’ Shannon Bream on Thursday.

“Many people feel that this case really embodies the antithesis of that. But as a country, as a whole, we have a system in place to review this. For Donald Trump, that’s not going to happen before the election, in all likelihood,” he said.