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Donald Trump completes mandatory pre-sentencing interview

The former US president was quizzed by a New York City probation officer.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s mandatory pre-sentencing interview has ended after less than half an hour of routine and uneventful questions and answers, a person familiar with the matter told the Associated Press.

The former US 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.

Judge 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 give evidence at the trial, appeared for the probation interview on Monday by video conference from his residence at the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, 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 are not allowed to have their lawyers with them.

After Mr Blanche baulked, Judge Merchan granted him permission to sit in on Trump’s interview.

The city’s public defenders on Monday criticised 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 organisations 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 Neighbourhood 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.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump has vowed to appeal against his conviction (Rick Scuteri/AP)

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 adult film 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 against 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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