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Trump could spend 6 lifetimes in prison

Aug 07, 2023

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Former President Donald Trump has been indicted three times, and faces 78 felony charges. Most recently he pled not guilty to allegations of unlawfully interfering with the 2020 presidential election results. In a fundraising email, Trump said he could be jailed for 561 years, although some experts suggest this estimate might even be conservative.

Straight Arrow News contributor David Pakman explains the calculations behind the numbers and fears that the former president might evade incarceration altogether.

If Trump were to take a plea agreement, it is very common that prosecutors will say, “Listen, we’ve got 30 charges,” for example, “plead guilty to four, we’ll get rid of the other 26. But here’s the punishment you’re gonna have to accept on the four,” this sort of thing. So 561, for that reason, is simply not going to happen.

There’s another aspect to this as well. Rarely are defendants sentenced to the absolute maximum on every charge. Usually, it’s something in the middle. Not always the case, but that’s also an issue. So after you get rid of some charges, or plea some away, or whatever the case may be, then you’re not usually going to get the maximum on every single count. 

And then further, you rarely serve all counts consecutively. Typically, there is a concurrent nature. If you get sentenced to four years on one count and five years on another count, you’re not often serving them consecutively, meaning nine years, but you’re sort of chipping away at both of them simultaneously — not always, depends on state versus federal. When it’s state, it depends on which state. 

If you put all of that together, where do we land? We land on — in the most extreme case where Trump is hit in every single one of these cases with something — it’s going to be a number that is a tiny fraction of 561 years — many legal experts are saying it would be under 40 at the absolute most.

561 years in prison, this is the number that is being floated for the amount of time that the failed former president could conceivably spend in prison. Trump is even fundraising off of this, sending out a fundraising email saying they want to imprison me for six lifetimes, and of course, if they can do it to me, they can do it to you or whatever. That’s sort of funny, because it’s obviously understood that they could do it to you, meaning normal people all along the question all along has actually been, is someone like Trump above the law? And the fact that Donald Trump has been indicted now three times, and is at least hypothetically facing prison time inspires a little bit more confidence that the justice system doesn’t see anyone as above the law, but we’re going to have to wait and see. 

 

But let’s talk about 561 years. Is it a real number? Yeah, it’s a real number. The way you get 561 years is if you look at all of the counts against Trump — I believe it’s 78 felonies at this point in time — and you say, okay, for each one of these felonies, what is the maximum amount — the maximum amount — of prison time that one could get if they were found guilty and sentenced to the maximum on every account? And yeah, it’s roughly 561 years, it’s something like that. I do think it’s important to be more realistic. 

 

First, there is just like the general question, are they gonna give a former president any prison time at all, even if he’s found guilty or in a plea agreement or whatever? We don’t know the answer to that. Certainly, there are conversations around keeping Trump safe in prison, or would he be more likely to serve a sentence in home confinement? Or would he go to a special prison for wealthy and, you know, particularly notorious people who need to be protected in a different way? We don’t know the answer to that, we don’t know if there’s really a judge willing to sentence Trump to prison. We just don’t know the answer to that. But let’s explore it as if the answer were yes.

 

In reality, Trump is not going to get sentenced to anything close to these sorts of numbers, and there’s a few different reasons why. Number one, usually as you go through a trial, and certainly if you take a plea, charges are consolidated and some are dropped. Sometimes there will be, you know, even if you look at the Kyle Rittenhouse case, there was a charge that ultimately the prosecution decided not to pursue because they lacked evidence, or there was a charge that I believe was removed because they didn’t even attempt to prove it. So as you go through the legal process, invariably, there are charges that are removed, particularly when you’re talking about 78 different counts, and there are also charges that are consolidated. 

 

If Trump were to take a plea agreement, it is very common that prosecutors will say, Listen, we’ve got 30 charges, for example, plead guilty to four, we’ll get rid of the other 26. But here’s the punishment, you’re gonna have to accept on the four this sort of thing. So 561, for that reason, is simply not going to happen. There’s another aspect to this as well. Rarely are defendants sentenced to the absolute maximum on every charge. Usually, it’s something in the middle. Not always the case, but that’s also an issue. So after you get rid of some charges, or please some away or whatever the case may be, then you’re not usually going to get the maximum on every single count. 

 

And then further, you rarely serve all counts concurrent, consecutively. Typically, there is a concurrent nature. If you get sentenced to four years on one count and five years on another count, you’re not often serving them consecutively, meaning nine years but you’re sort of chipping away at both of them simultaneously, not not always, depends on state versus federal. When it’s state, it depends on which state. 

 

If you put all of that together, where do we land? We land on in the most extreme case where Trump is hit, in every single one of these cases with something. It’s going to be a number that is a tiny fraction of 561 years, many legal experts are saying it would be under 40 at the absolute most. Now, we also have to understand that when you are Trump’s age and you’re relatively unhealthy, Trump is obese and has a terrible diet and doesn’t exercise, or relatively — this is now me speaking statistically, actuarially — a relatively short sentence can effectively be a life sentence. And so it is not wrong to say that if Trump is sentenced to prison time, we don’t know that that will happen. If Trump is sentenced to prison time, he may well die in prison. That is mathematically a reality to contend with. In my heart of hearts, do I think Trump is going to do a single day of prison? I still believe the answer is no at this time, although the DC charges are definitely the most serious so far.

 

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