Morning Joe: Bragg Team Didn’t ‘Relish’ Victory, Normal Sentence Is Probation, But . . .

Lisa Rubin MSNBC Morning Joe 5-31-24 On Friday’s Morning Joe, MSNBC legal analyst Lisa Rubin, the show’s go-to person on the Trump trial, commenting on the reaction to the guilty verdicts by Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg and his prosecutorial team, made a flabbergasting claim: “This is not a group of people, despite what Donald Trump and his Republican allies are saying, that relished this victory, that are rejoicing in it.”

The prosecutors, knowing that the cameras of the world were upon them, might have been able to restrain their enthusiasm. But does Rubin really expect us to believe that—their outward demeanor notwithstanding—on the inside it wasn’t unrestrained revelry?

After all, as even the New York Times has reportedBragg ran for DA on the platform of being the best person to prosecute Trump. So now that his big day has arrived, Bragg & Co. weren’t “relishing and rejoicing?” Riight.

Analysts Danny Cevallos and Chuck Rosenberg agreed that for someone like Trump, convicted of a first-time, non-violent felony, the normal sentence in New York would be probation, not prison time:

CEVALLOS: There are plenty of arguments to be made for a probation-only sentence. Number one, this is a 71-plus-year-old offender. You have a non-violent offense, a first-time offender. No guns. No drugs. No violence involved. 

(…)

ROSENBERG: Nevertheless, as Danny articulated earlier, this is a first-time, non-violent offender, and, typically, in New York state courts, a first-time, non-violent offender does not get a jail sentence.

However, Rosenberg said that Trump’s repeated criticisms of Judge Merchan, and what Rosenberg expects to be Trump’s lack of remorse when given the chance to speak before sentencing, might sway the judge away from the normal guidelines. Rosenberg analogized Trump’s criticisms of Judge Merchan to a baseball player telling the umpire he “sucks.” A “bad strategy,” opined Rosenberg.

Cevallos made one additional argument in support of his belief that probation rather than prison would be the appropriate sentence. He said that in determining a sentence, the judge will normally take into account the monetary loss that the defendant caused to others. Here, he said, the loss was “zero.” 

Further, Cevallos offered a very curious example of the kind of monetary loss that could justify a prison sentence:

“I’m just thinking of an example. Let’s say I made up a fake university and charged people fake tuition for my fake university and kept all that money — I’m just giving a hypothetical example — that might be a case where you could measure loss in terms of the number of victims multiplied by how much they paid.”

Although Cevallos stressed that he was “just giving a hypothetical example,” surely he was aware that Trump paid $25 million in settlement of a lawsuit brought by students at Trump University who claimed they had been duped out of thousands of dollars by misleading marketing practices and aggressive sales tactics.

Heck of a hypothetical, Danny!

The transcript is below. Click “expand” to read:

MSNBC’s Morning Joe
5/31/24
6:05 am EDT

LISA RUBIN: The reactions of the parties was also so telling. Former President Trump tried to put a good face on the verdict. When he walked out, you could see he set his jaw in that Trump-like way, he pursed his lips in the way we’re all used to. He set his face to look ahead. And yet, he looked like a man defeated and resigned. He walked slowly and lumberingly. 

And then once they were out of the courtroom, we, the press corps, about 100 of us, were left in there with the DA’s office. I don’t know if I’ve shared this before, but when Trump moves out into the hallway, for security purposes, everyone is frozen. And that includes the staff of the Manhattan district attorney’s office. 

If you were counting on them to look as if they just scored the biggest score in that office’s history, you wouldn’t have seen it on their faces or on Alvin Bragg’s face. He looked straight ahead, and the prosecutors on his team didn’t crack a single smile among them. Maybe there was a little twinge of relief in their shoulders and body language, but this was a group of people that knew that all eyes of the world would be on them in this moment if they were lucky enough to get a conviction, let alone 34 of them, and they met the moment with their seriousness of purpose. This is not a group of people, despite what Donald Trump and his Republican allies are saying, that relished this victory, that are rejoicing in it.

. . . 

DANNY CEVALLOS: There are plenty of arguments to be made for a probation-only sentence. Number one, this is a 71-plus-year-old offender. You have a non-violent offense, a first-time offender. No guns. No drugs. No violence involved. 

And I would make an additional argument, and I think reasonable minds could disagree here. That I would say that loss, and the great Chuck Rosenberg will tell you, that in fraud cases, especially in the federal system, the single biggest driver of a sentence is the dollar amount of loss. 

And loss is measured in many different ways. But as a defense attorney, I’d argue that the loss in this case is 0.0. It’s not a traditional fraud case where you have traditional victims who handed over their money, let’s say, and I’m just thinking of an example. Let’s say I made up a fake university and charged people fake tuition for my fake university and kept all that money — I’m just giving a hypothetical example — that might be a case where you could measure loss in terms of the number of victims multiplied by how much they paid. You don’t really have that here. You could make the argument that the loss and the victims are the people of the State of New York. I get that. And I think reasonable minds could disagree. But as a defense attorney, I would be arguing that loss in this case is zero. 

CHUCK ROSENBERG: With regard to sentencing, look, it’s always a bad idea, before the first pitch, to tell the umpire that he sucks. It’s just not the way you want to, sort of, go into the first inning of a baseball game. Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. 

Nevertheless, as Danny articulated earlier, this is a first-time, non-violent offender, and, typically, in New York state courts, a first-time, non-violent offender does not get a jail sentence. That said, continuing to yell at the umpire, to denigrate the ump, the courts, the jurors, the system, the prosecutors, is just a bad strategy. 

And one thing that judges look for at sentencing is what the defendant has to say. Because al defendants have a chance to speak at sentencing. We call it allocution. And, you know, I sit there and listen as a prosecutor to whether or not the defendant is remorseful, whether he or she apologizes, whether he or she takes responsibility, and I think Mr. Trump is constitutionally incapable of doing that. 

And so, you know, might that be determinative here? Perhaps.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Wow!

ROSENBERG: The typical defendant in a case like this would get a sentence of probation. Danny is exactly right. But Mr. Trump has been and always will be a wild card, and his fate now resides in the hands of one person. And he’s been spending a lot of time denigrating that one person. So we’ll see.

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