Trump Faces Prospect of Rikers Island Imprisonment Amid Trial: Experts Weigh In

In the event that Donald Trump continues to test the patience of the judge overseeing his hush money trial, there’s a possibility he might find himself back in his native New York City borough of Queens – more precisely, within the confines of the prison on Rikers Island, as indicated by experts on Monday.

Judge Juan Merchan, in response to Trump’s repeated breaches of a gag order prohibiting him from disparaging witnesses or the jury, cautioned the former president about the potential for imprisonment “if necessary” for further infractions.

While Merchan did not specify the exact facility, inquiries regarding Trump’s possible detention at Rikers prompted Frank Dwyer, the jail’s chief spokesperson, to assert that suitable accommodations would be arranged by the department.

Trump has persistently argued that he is a victim of a skewed justice system, claiming unfair treatment compared to others. Conversely, critics argue the opposite, suggesting that Trump’s public statements would have led any other defendant to incarceration by now.

The notion of Trump facing imprisonment while under trial is bound to evoke intense reactions from both his supporters and detractors. Trump’s repeated attempts to leverage the specter of imprisonment for fundraising underscore the potent emotional response it elicits from his base.

Mike Lawlor, an expert in criminal justice at the University of New Haven, outlined Rikers as the probable destination should Merchan pursue this course of action. Lawlor, a Democrat and former Connecticut House member, emphasized Merchan’s aim to curb contempt and prevent Trump from intimidating witnesses and jurors.

Lawlor elaborated on the objective of isolating Trump from his social media platform through incarceration, suggesting that imprisonment would achieve this end. He mentioned that Trump would be placed in protective custody, precluding interaction with other inmates, and limiting contact to corrections officers and his Secret Service detail.

Although Trump’s potential detention would mark an unprecedented occurrence at Rikers, Lawlor noted that the facility has experience housing high-profile individuals, including the elderly like Trump.

The former president’s former chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, currently serves time at Rikers, having been sentenced last month for perjury during Trump’s civil fraud trial.

Moreover, Trump would undergo standard intake procedures, including physical measurements publicly recorded, Lawlor explained.

Regarding the Secret Service’s role, Lawlor emphasized their primary duty of protecting Trump from harm, suggesting that a prison setting might streamline their responsibilities.

Martin F. Horn, a professor emeritus at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, echoed Lawlor’s sentiments, envisioning Trump’s confinement in a facility separate from other inmates to accommodate his security detail.

Nonetheless, ensuring a former president’s safety behind bars presents an unprecedented challenge for the Secret Service, according to a spokesperson for the agency.

Merchan may hesitate to incarcerate Trump for another reason, suggested Dave Aronberg, a state attorney for Palm Beach County. Aronberg implied that imprisonment might align with Trump’s narrative of victimhood, potentially bolstering his support base.

An alternative to imprisonment, proposed by former federal prosecutor Michael Zeldin, involves confining Trump to a cell near the New York City courtroom where his trial unfolds, serving as a symbolic reminder of the consequences of breaching court orders.

House arrest remains a feasible option, though Merchan retains considerable discretion in determining Trump’s confinement location, Horn remarked.

Lawlor dismissed the possibility of Trump being confined to his opulent Manhattan residence, citing concerns about continued access to electronics and aides, thus facilitating defiance of court orders.

Ultimately, Merchan faces a weighty decision regarding Trump’s punishment for his repeated violations, with potential implications for both the trial’s proceedings and the broader political landscape.

Supreme Court Emphasizes Life and Liberty in Kejriwal Arrest Case Amidst Election Timing Concerns

The Supreme Court emphasized the paramount importance of life and liberty during a hearing regarding Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s challenge against his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a money laundering case related to the alleged Delhi excise policy scam. Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta directed the central agency to delve into the timing of Kejriwal’s arrest, particularly concerning the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. The bench adjourned the matter till May 3.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued during the proceedings that the ED had not recovered any “proceeds of crime” and emphasized the high threshold for arrest under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA). He asserted that mere non-cooperation should not warrant Kejriwal’s incarceration.

In response, the ED contended in its affidavit before the Supreme Court that arresting politicians who are involved in criminal activities does not impede free and fair elections.

Meanwhile, the Delhi High Court stated on Monday that Kejriwal’s decision to continue as Chief Minister despite his arrest was his personal choice. However, the court emphasized that this should not obstruct the provision of free textbooks, writing material, and uniforms to underprivileged school children.

The Delhi High Court had previously ruled on April 9 that there was no illegality in Kejriwal’s arrest by the ED, citing sufficient evidence including statements from approvers, involvement of middlemen, and indications of cash exchanges for the 2022 Goa elections.

Currently, Kejriwal is in judicial custody at Tihar jail in New Delhi, with his detention extended until May 7 by a Delhi court on April 23.

During the hearing, the Supreme Court delved into various aspects of the case. Justice Khanna raised concerns about the timing of Kejriwal’s arrest, particularly in the context of ongoing elections, highlighting the significance of life and liberty. Singhvi, representing Kejriwal, referred to safeguards outlined in the PMLA against vexatious arrests and the lack of proceeds of crime recovered by the ED.

Singhvi also highlighted discrepancies in the statements of approvers and witnesses, arguing that they were hearsay and lacked direct evidence against Kejriwal. He pointed out instances where bail was granted to co-accused after they made incriminating statements against Kejriwal, suggesting coercion.

Additionally, Singhvi emphasized the subjective evaluation criteria for arrest under Section 19 of the PMLA, asserting that it requires the probe officer to have a reason to believe in the accused’s guilt, not just suspicion.

The Supreme Court will resume hearing the matter on May 3, as the legal battle surrounding Kejriwal’s arrest continues amidst political and legal intricacies.