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Trump met with probation officer over video call in hush money case

Former president Donald Trump met with his probation officer via a video conference call Monday, a routine step following a verdict in the Manhattan hush money trial that found him guilty on 34 counts.

The interview with the New York City Department of Probation was “uneventful and lasted less than thirty minutes,” according to a person familiar with the proceedings who spoke on the condition anonymity to freely discuss the private meeting.

Trump received special dispensation to hold the meeting virtually and was in Palm Beach, Fla. He was also allowed to have one of his lawyers appear alongside him, an exception granted to him by Justice Juan Merchan, who oversaw the trial.

The Trump campaign did not respond for comment on further details of the call.

The interview is a routine step for defendants after a guilty verdict. The probation department — housed on the 10th floor of the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse — prepares presentencing reports for judges and is in charge of interviewing convicted felons on topics including their personal history, mental health and the circumstances that led to the conviction.

Trump, who is now a felon, has vowed to appeal the verdict. He was still required to undergo this interview ahead of sentencing, scheduled for July 11.

The former president was convicted in late May of charges relating to $130,000 in payments made to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election to keep her quiet about a sexual encounter she said they had. His conviction does not disqualify him from running for the presidency.

Some legal experts have told The Washington Post that it is unlikely that Trump, 77, will face incarceration. It will be Merchan who will decide whether Trump sees jail time. His decision will be informed by input from both the prosecution and defense. Alternative punishments for Trump include probation or home confinement.

Trump’s attorneys are expected to file a presentencing brief by Thursday. The Manhattan district attorney’s office, which prosecuted the case, has until June 27 to file its recommendation. A probation officer’s report is generally not a public document but aspects of it could become public in court.

Legal groups and public defenders complained that the fact that his lawyer was allowed to attend the meeting and that he was allowed to meet virtually with the probation office amounted to special treatment.

In a statement, a group of public defender groups including the Legal Aid Society and the Bronx Defenders said that the exceptions made for Trump “are not typically afforded to low-income defendants.”

“All people convicted of crimes should be allowed counsel in their probation interview, not just billionaires,” the groups said in the statement. “This is just another example of our two-tiered system of justice. Presentencing 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.”

A spokeswoman for the city, Ivette Dávila-Richards, said virtual interviews have been available to defendants, starting during the pandemic.

“[Trump] is being treated like any other defendant,” Dávila-Richards said.

Marianne LeVine and David Nakamura contributed reporting.

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