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    Tuesday, June 18, 2024

    Trump completes mandatory interview prior to sentencing

    Former President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at Trump Tower, Friday, May 31, 2024, in New York. A day after a New York jury found Trump guilty of 34 felony charges, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee addressed the conviction and likely attempt to cast his campaign in a new light. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

    NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump 's mandatory pre-sentencing interview Monday ended after less than a half-hour of routine and uneventful questions and answers, a person familiar with the matter told the Associated Press. The person was not authorized to speak publicly and did so on condition of anonymity.

    The former president was quizzed by a New York City probation officer for a report that will be compiled and presented to trial judge Juan M. Merchan prior to Trump's July 11 sentencing in his hush money criminal case.

    Merchan can use the report to help decide Trump's punishment following his May 30 felony conviction for falsifying business records to cover up a potential sex scandal. The judge has discretion to impose a wide range of punishments, ranging from probation and community service to up to four years in prison.

    Trump, who declined to testify at the trial, appeared for the probation interview Monday by video conference from his residence at the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., with his lawyer Todd Blanche by his side. The arrangement garnered complaints of special treatment, but city officials contend that is not the case.

    Typically, people convicted of crimes in New York must meet with probation officials face-to-face for their required pre-sentence interviews and aren’t allowed to have their lawyers with them. After Blanche balked, Merchan granted him permission to sit in on Trump’s interview.

    The city’s public defenders on Monday criticized what they said were “special arrangements” for Trump and urged the probation department to “ensure that all New Yorkers, regardless of income, status, or class, receive the same pre-sentencing opportunities.”

    “All people convicted of crimes should be allowed counsel in their probation interview, not just billionaires,” four of the city’s public defender organizations said in a statement. “This is just another example of our two-tiered system of justice.”

    “Pre-sentencing interviews with probation officers influence sentencing, and public defenders are deprived of joining their clients for these meetings. The option of joining these interviews virtually is typically not extended to the people we represent either,” said the statement from the Legal Aid Society, Bronx Defenders, New York County Defender Services and Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem.

    A spokesperson for the city, which runs the probation department, said defendants have had the option of conducting their pre-sentencing interviews by video since before the dawn of social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. A message seeking comment was left with a spokesperson for the state court system.

    Pre-sentence reports include a defendant’s personal history, criminal record and recommendations for sentencing. They also include information about employment and any obligations to help care for a family member. The interview is also a chance for a defendant to say why they think they deserve a lighter punishment.

    Such reports are typically prepared by a probation officer, a social worker or a psychologist working for the probation department who interviews the defendant and possibly that person’s family and friends, as well as people affected by the crime.

    Trump was convicted in May of 34 counts of falsifying business records arising from what prosecutors said was an attempt to hide a hush money payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 presidential election. She claims she had a sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier, which he denies.

    Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has vowed to appeal his conviction — though by law he must wait until after he is sentenced to do so. He says he is innocent of any crime and says the case was brought to hurt his chances to regain the White House.

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