Trump Got Special Pre-Sentence Treatment From NYC, Defense Lawyers Say

Former President Donald Trump
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  • Trump was allowed to do his NYC pre-sentencing interview virtually and with his lawyer present.
  • New York lawyers say this is preferential treatment for a billionaire ex-president.
  • Low-income defendants are required to do their interviews in person and without a lawyer, they say.

Donald Trump was allowed to do his pre-sentencing interview on Monday via video and with his lawyer at his side — and New York City defense attorneys with clients who are neither billionaires nor former presidents are crying foul.

Defendants who are not in jail while awaiting sentencing are told to attend in person — and alone — when they sit for an interview with the city Department of Probation, multiple city-based defense attorneys told Business Insider.

Trump’s 30-minute interview was conducted virtually, not in person, from Mar-a-Lago, with attorney Todd Blanche at his side, the Associated Press reported.

In New York, probation officers talk to the defendant and the prosecutor in separate pre-sentencing interviews in preparation for what’s known as a pre-sentencing report.

These reports are important because they recommend to the judge what punishment would be appropriate.

Trump is due to be sentenced on July 11 for last month’s conviction in Manhattan on 34 counts of falsifying business records in the so-called “hush-money” case.

“All people convicted of crimes should be allowed counsel in their probation interview, not just billionaires,” four New York City-based public-defender organizations said in a joint statement Monday.

“This is just another example of our two-tiered system of justice,” said the statement, issued by The Legal Aid Society, The Bronx Defenders, New York County Defender Services, and Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem.

Trump is not getting preferential treatment by being allowed to do his interview via video and with his lawyer, a city spokeswoman told Business Insider.

“It’s common — it’s not unusual, and it’s been an option from even before COVID,” Ivette Davila-Richards, a deputy press secretary for the mayor’s office, said of Trump’s virtual interview. “No exceptions are being made because it’s President Trump,” she added.

It is true that defendants who are locked up while awaiting sentencing typically do pre-sentencing interviews via video, defense lawyers told Business Insider.

But defendants like Trump, who are at liberty, are almost always required to appear alone and in person for their probation interviews, lawyers told BI.

Trump was able to have attorney Todd Blanche at his side only through the most uncommon of circumstances, attorneys also complained.

The trial judge, New York Supreme Court Justice Manhattan Juan Merchan, on Friday ordered probation to allow Blanche to attend Trump’s interview after prosecutors did not fight the request, court filings show.

“I’ve never been present at a probation interview,” said veteran Legal Aid attorney Sam Roberts. He estimated he’s had well over 3,000 clients do these interviews.

“In fairness, at least when clients are detained pending sentence, it will be a procedural nightmare to permit attorneys to attend,” said Thomas Eddy, an attorney from Rochester, New York, who is fighting the no-counsel rule on the appellate level.

He shared with Business Insider 2023 emails in which probation and court officials say it’s policy for defendants to be interviewed without their lawyers unless there’s an exceptional need for counsel to be present.

“Defendants are prejudiced daily by damaging statements they make without counsel present,” Eddy said.

A negative probation report can hurt an inmate as they seek a lower security level, work release, and parole, he said.

“How much trouble do you think Trump would get into today if Blanche wasn’t there to muzzle him?” Eddy asked.

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