NEW YORK – Every day, hundreds of people are taken into police custody in New York City. Former President Donald Trump is set to become one of them next week.
Trump has been charged with payments made during his 2016 presidential campaign to silence claims of an extramarital sexual encounter, his attorneys confirmed Thursday. It is the first criminal case against a former US President.
Trump — a Republican who attacked the case on Thursday as a “political prosecution” of a “completely innocent person” by a Democratic prosecutor — is expected to turn himself in to authorities next week, according to a person familiar but not competent with the matter is to talk about it publicly. The person said the details of a surrender were still being worked out.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office said it has contacted Trump’s attorney to coordinate his surrender and arraignment.
For every defendant in New York, whether poor or powerful, answering criminal charges means being fingerprinted and photographed, asked basic questions like name and date of birth, and presented in court. All in all, defendants are usually detained for at least several hours.
There may be differences as to where the various steps take place, how long they take, whether handcuffs come out, and other details. Much depends on the seriousness of the case and whether the defendants turn themselves in.
But there’s no playbook for booking an ex-president with US Secret Service protection. Agents are tasked with protecting former presidents unless and until they say they don’t need it. Trump has kept his details, so agents would need to be by his side at all times.
“That would be a unique outlier,” said Jeremy Saland, defense attorney and former Manhattan prosecutor.
If Trump is indicted, expect a carefully choreographed and relatively quick trial and release without bail (as is customary in New York) — and with a focus on safety. A former president is unlikely to be handcuffed down a sidewalk or down a crowded courthouse hallway, Saland predicts.
“It’s a public forum, but safety is also a top priority,” he notes.
When suspects are informed of an indictment or impending arrest, they often prompt them to turn themselves in. This can smooth the process and strengthen the case for bail by showing they are not dodging the case.
For example, when Trump’s firm’s former chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, was charged with tax fraud in Manhattan in 2021, he was able to stand by a side door of the courthouse before normal workdays.
The aim is to “reduce the likelihood that the handover will become a media frenzy,” his lawyers wrote in a later court filing.
Weisselberg arrived at around 6:15 a.m. and was taken to what his lawyers called a “waiting room” for booking, an interview about a possible release and other procedures. To pass the time, he had brought a book — “Chicken Soup for the Baseball Fan’s Soul” — and his attorneys provided him with a snack, a face mask, mints and other items, according to the filing.
Weisselberg was charged and released about eight hours later after being led past a phalanx of news cameras down the hallway into a courtroom. (Weisselberg eventually pleaded guilty to tax evasion on work benefits, including a free apartment and tuition for his grandchildren.)
Meanwhile, disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein turned himself in to a Manhattan police station in 2018 to face charges of rape and criminal sex offenses. He was briefly in a police cell flipping through a biography of famed film director Elia Kazan before being handcuffed out and taken to court under the gaze of journalists on the sidewalk – and other suspects in a booking area of a courthouse, where some yelled, “Yo, Harvey!”
Within about three hours of his surrender, Weinstein was charged and released on electronic surveillance and $1 million bail. (Weinstein was eventually convicted; his appeal is now before the New York Superior Court. He was also convicted on similar charges in Los Angeles.)
But even a planned arrest is still an arrest. Defendants are required to surrender cellphones and some other personal items (and in some cases, potential evidence) for safekeeping, and attorneys are generally not allowed to escort their clients through the trial. Lawyers often advise traveling light and staying a mother.
“Don’t make any statements. Because you think you’re helping your situation, but they can just use your statements against you — because you’re being caught up at that moment, you get nervous,” says Gianni Karmily, a criminal defense attorney who practices in New York City and on Long Island .
Many arrests in New York City are unplanned. This can be a very different experience for defendants, including celebrities.
When a hotel worker accused then-International Monetary Fund chief and potential French presidential candidate Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexually assaulting her in 2011, he was pulled from a plane at Kennedy Airport.
Strauss-Kahn, who said his encounter with the woman was consensual, spent about 36 hours being interrogated, arrested, subjected to various investigations and waiting with a pen at places including a courthouse before being charged and detained without bail. After several days in the notorious Rikers Island jail, Strauss-Kahn was released on $1 million bail under house arrest with armed guards.
Manhattan prosecutors eventually dropped the criminal case against Strauss-Kahn, who later settled a civil complaint filed by his accuser.
• Associated Press authors Michael R. Sisak in New York and Colleen Long in Washington contributed to this report.
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