DA Bragg stuns by not opposing Trump request for delay in sentencing hearing

By 
 July 3, 2024

Throughout nearly the entirety of the legal proceedings from indictment to conviction in the New York case, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has seemed to reflexively oppose virtually every move made by former President Donald Trump and his attorneys.

Yet, when Trump's attorneys alerted Judge Juan Merchan on Monday of their intention to seek a delay of the July 11 sentencing hearing, Bragg's office informed the judge the next day that they "do not oppose his request" for an adjournment, Fox News reported.

Trump's request for a delay directly followed the Supreme Court's ruling on his presidential immunity claim that now calls into question some of the evidence used by Bragg's prosecutors to win the conviction against the former president.

Trump urges delay of sentencing, asks for conviction to be overturned

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that all former presidents, including Trump, enjoy absolute immunity from prosecution for core constitutional powers and presumptive immunity for their "official" acts, but no immunity for private or "unofficial" acts while in office, according to SCOTUSblog.

Part of that ruling included a prohibition against prosecutors using non-prosecutable "official" acts as evidence in support of a prosecution for "unofficial" acts, as that would "eviscerate the immunity we have recognized" and "permit a prosecutor to do indirectly what he cannot do directly -- invite the jury to examine acts for which a President is immune from prosecution to nonetheless prove his liability on any charge."

Just hours after that ruling was released, per Fox News, Trump's attorneys sent a letter to Judge Merchan requesting a delay of the July 11 sentencing hearing and permission to file a motion to overturn the conviction since it was based in part on evidence used by DA Bragg's prosecutors that dates to Trump's time as president and could be argued were "official" acts by him in that role.

Bragg doesn't oppose delay; Merchan delays sentencing until September

On Tuesday, Bragg's office responded with a letter to the judge that read in part, "Although we believe defendant'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. We respectfully request a deadline of July 24, 2024 -- two weeks after defendant's requested deadline -- to file and serve a response."

NBC News reported on Tuesday that Judge Merchan, after receiving both letters, approved the unopposed request for a delay and postponed the sentencing hearing from July 11, just a few days before the Republican National Convention, until September 8, approximately two months before the general election.

As for the request to overturn the conviction in light of the Supreme Court's immunity ruling, Merchan, who had summarily dismissed Trump's immunity claims earlier in the pre-trial proceedings, said that he would issue a ruling on that revived matter by September 6.

Some evidence used by DA Bragg might constitute "official acts"

ABC News reported that Trump's attorneys had raised the issue of presidential immunity for "official" acts ahead of the trial as an objection to prosecutors using evidence garnered from Trump's time in office to be used in support of the prosecution for allegedly falsifying business records in 2017 to cover up hush money payments made in 2016 to silence allegations of an extramarital affair.

In April, however, before the trial began, Judge Merchan summarily rejected that argument without consideration as "untimely" and wrote in a decision, "The Court declines to consider whether the doctrine of presidential immunity precludes the introduction of evidence of purported official presidential acts in a criminal proceeding."

Yet, given the Supreme Court's holding that "official" acts can't be used as evidence to prosecute "unofficial" acts, Trump's attorneys are now asserting that the conviction should be thrown out since it relied upon, at least in part, evidence the prosecution is prohibited from using.

Federal judge previously rejected Trump's "official acts" immunity claim

That argument may prove to be a tough sell for Merchan or the appellate court, as a federal judge in New York already ruled against Trump's claimed immunity for "official acts" -- albeit long before the Supreme Court clarified the extent and limits of presidential immunity -- in his unsuccessful bid in 2023 to move the New York trial from state court to federal court.

"The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the matter was purely a personal item of the President -- a cover-up of an embarrassing event," U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein said in his July 2023 decision, per ABC News. "Hush money paid to an adult film star is not related to a President's official acts. It does not reflect in any way the color of the President's official duties."

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