Legal experts have asserted that the new charges brought against former president Donald Trump by the Department of Justice, related to stolen government documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate, have significantly strengthened the federal case against him, and the chances of Trump ending up in jail are now much higher unless he reaches an agreement with special counsel Jack Smith’s office.
With 40 charges pending in a Florida courtroom, scheduled to be heard by Judge Aileen Cannon next year, and the possibility of more charges in Washington D.C. related to the Jan. 6 insurrection, one legal scholar, Eric Freedman from Hofstra University’s School of Law, suggested that Trump’s advanced age may result in him spending the rest of his life in prison if he doesn’t strike a deal with prosecutors.
Freedman highlighted the significance of reports that Trump’s close aides, who are now co-conspirators, attempted to destroy surveillance video at Mar-a-Lago. He explained that such actions not only have obstruction of justice implications but also demonstrate consciousness of guilt, which could be particularly compelling evidence against the former president.
“Attempting to delete the surveillance footage has not only obstruction of justice ramifications but will also be useful to prosecutors in demonstrating consciousness of guilt,” Freeman told Salon.
He added: “It is the consciousness of guilt that is particularly compelling. Innocent parties don’t take steps to delete evidence of innocence.”
Paul Collins, a legal studies and political science professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, expressed his shock at the evidence presented against Trump. He argued that if the government can prove the aspects of the case related to the stolen documents and incriminating recordings, Trump’s defense will be extremely challenging.
“If the government can prove this aspect of the case, it will be exceptionally difficult for the former president to mount a defense,” he asserted.
Considering the gravity of the charges, Collins advised Trump to consider seeking a plea deal to avoid a potentially lengthy prison sentence, especially given his age.
“These are serious charges and if the former president is found guilty and does not strike some kind of a sentencing deal he may die in prison given his age,” Collins said.
Another legal expert, former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani also emphasized the significance of the incriminating recording where Trump discusses the top-secret document, stating that it strongly supports the case against him in the eyes of a jury.
“It also now ties the document to the recording, and there is really no better evidence to have than the defendant on tape talking about the alleged crime,” Rahmani explained. “Witnesses can lie. Recordings don’t.”