BREAKING: Jury in Trump trial begins deliberations in NYC court

"If there is a guilty verdict," he told the jury, the first ever to embark on deliberations to determine the guilt or innocence of a former president, "it will be my responsibility to impose sentence."

Libby Emmons Brooklyn NY
After closing arguments from the prosecution closed on Tuesday, the jury was given their instructions by Judge Juan Merchan Wednesday morning and began their deliberations. In his instructions to the jury, Merchan instructed them to understand that he personally did not have an opinion on the case and that they may not "speculate about matters related to sentencing."

"If there is a guilty verdict," he told the jury, the first ever to embark on deliberations to determine the guilt or innocence of a former president, "it will be my responsibility to impose sentence." He also told them that they must disregard any testimony that was "stricken from the record."

Merchan further told them not to speculate on redacted items in evidentiary documents they would review as part of their deliberations, saying "you may not draw any conclusion about why it is redacted, or what is redacted."

Then he went over "limiting instructions," and went over key points made by attorneys in the case. "Here are some of the limiting instructions I gave you: that AMI entered a conciliation agreement and a non-prosecution agreement; you may not consider that as evidence that the defendant committed a crime," he said, per Inner City Press, which has covered every day of the trial and live posted it on X.

Merchan told the jury to be objective in their consideration and not to allow their verdict to "rest on speculation or bias." He told them that they must determine if witnesses were telling the truth in their sworn testimony or not. Former Trump Org. attorney Michael Cohen served as the prosecution's star witness. While on the stand he admitted to perjuring himself before Congress and to stealing $30,000 from the Trump Org. while he was working for the company.

"You may ask, Did the witness have a conscious bias? You may consider if a witness had or did not have a motive to lie. You are not required to reject the testimony of an interested witness," Inner City Press reported Merchan as saying.

And then Merchan laid it out, saying that Cohen is "an accomplice" in the crimes for which Trump has been charged, namely the falsification of business records by recording payments made to the attorney as legal fees in company bookkeeping records. Those 34 counts of the falsification of business records, which were elevated to a felony under DA Alving Bragg, are usually classed as misdemeanors. 

In this case, Bragg said they were felonies because he claimed they were committed in service to a felony crime. He attested that this crime was that the payments made to Cohen were campaign contributions to then-president and incumbent presidential candidate Trump, who intended to subvert the election by "hushing" a porn star who testified on the witness stand that she had sex with Trump many years prior to his political career.

"Under our law, a person is guilty of this when with intent to defraud, with the intent to commit another crime, that person causes the entry of a false business record. Intent means conscious objective or purpose," Merchan told the jury.

"The first of the People's theories of unlawful means is Federal elections law, including as to the office of the President of the US. Under FECA, a corporation may not make a contribution to a candidate or an expenditure in concert with a candidate," he went on.

"If the payment would have been made absent the candidacy, it should not be treated as a contribution. There is an exemption for legitimate press functions. The second of the People's theories of unlawful means is to falsify other business records," he said.

The Federal Election Commission, which had previously reviewed the information about Stormy Daniels, Trump and Cohen, had declined to bring a case at the federal level. Bragg then brought the same charges at the state level and claimed that Trump had violated New York State election law, as he could not claim that Trump violated federal election law, since the federal body that would do that had already said that Trump had not done so, or at least that the case was not provable.

Merchan referenced Section 17-152 of New York State election law, which reads: "Conspiracy to promote or prevent election. Any two or more persons who conspire to promote or prevent the election of any person to a public office by unlawful means and which conspiracy is acted upon by one or more of the parties thereto, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor."

"If you find the People have proven the elements beyond a reasonable doubt, you must find the defendant guilty... Motive is the reason why the person chooses to engage in criminal conduct. Motive is not an element of the crimes charged," Merchan instructed.

They were told to hand over their phones and that lunch would be provided in the jury room. The jury had not been sequestered during the course of the weeks' long trial, and Trump had been in the courtroom every day it was in session. He did not testify in his own defense.
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