What to Know About The 4 Indictments Against Former President Trump

The legal saga surrounding President Donald Trump is an intricate web of charges, spanning from federal to state jurisdictions. The allegations come in four primary forms: a federal indictment regarding the mishandling of classified documents, another federal indictment related to the events of January 6, 2021, a Georgia indictment under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), and a New York indictment involving payments to a former porn star.  


As Tampa’s experienced criminal defense law firm, Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law believes Floridians should have reliable, informed criminal defense lawyers explain what each of former President Trump’s criminal cases is about and how they compare to each other.  



Federal Indictment on Classified Documents & Obstructing Justice 


The first federal indictment against President Trump alleges that he mishandled classified documents, which is a severe offense under the United States Code, Title 18, Section 793. This law makes it illegal to willfully transmit or lose possession of information relating to the national defense. The key elements of this charge are intent and the nature of the information. If it’s proven that former President Trump knowingly mishandled classified information, he could face serious legal consequences, including up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. 


However, after the initial indictment, the federal prosecutors filed what is called a “superseding indictment” which added new charges to the first indictment. These new charges include “conspiracy to obstruct justice” in violation of 18 USC §1512(k). This alleged crime is even more threatening for the former president because the maximum penalty is double that of the documents charge. 


If Mr. Trump is convicted of conspiracy to obstruct justice, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison. It is also worth noting that obstructing justice is an easier charge for the government to prove.  


One of Mr. Trump’s codefendants has entered into a cooperation agreement with the government in which he will testify against Mr. Trump, reportedly asserting that the former president ordered him to destroy evidence (videos of movements within Mar-a-Lago) that were already subpoenaed by the Department of Justice. 


Even if all of the charges related to the unlawful handling of classified documents result in acquittal, the obstruction of justice charge can send Mr. Trump to prison for a significant number of years. 


Possible Defenses 


Defense lawyers can offer several strong arguments to defeat the classified documents charges, including that Mr. Trump did not intentionally withhold the documents, that the documents were not classified, that he acted in good faith, and that he was legally entitled to retain the documents.  


Defenses to the obstruction of justice charge may concentrate on challenging the credibility and reliability of the cooperating witness’s testimony. Is the witness against the former president lying or exaggerating in order to escape punishment for his own crimes? Is the witness willing to say what the government wants him to say to avoid going to prison for lying to federal agents during his grand jury testimony? Any defense strategy will need to raise a reasonable doubt of Mr. Trump’s guilt in the minds of jurors to avoid a conviction. 


Federal Indictment Related to January 6, 2021 


The second federal indictment centers on the riot that took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. While President Trump was not directly involved in the physical intrusion into the Capitol building, the indictment alleges that his actions or speeches incited the violence, potentially violating 18 U.S.C. § 2101, which defines the crime of incitement to riot.  


Legally speaking, the prosecution must prove that Trump’s conduct was intended to incite immediate violence and that such violence was likely to occur. Defense strategies will probably focus on the remoteness of his involvement or the lack of a direct, causal link between his words and the subsequent acts of violence. 


Georgia Indictment Related to RICO (Racketeering) 


The Georgia indictment brings charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), commonly used to combat organized crime. The indictment alleges that President Trump attempted to interfere with Georgia’s electoral process by coercing officials to “find” votes in his favor. For a successful RICO prosecution, the state must show an ongoing organization and a pattern of racketeering activity.  


What’s “Racketeering?” 


Under Georgia law, racketeering occurs if someone commits, attempts to commit – or solicits, coerces, or intimidates someone else to commit – any crime included in a long list of offenses. 


While typically associated with prosecuting organized crime figures, RICO laws are written broadly enough to prosecute multiple people who are involved in illegally achieving a common goal. Georgia enacted its own RICO law in 1980 that makes it a crime to participate in, acquire or maintain control of an “enterprise” through a “pattern of racketeering activity.” 


Conviction of this offense requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed a “pattern of racketeering activity” which means two or more acts in furtherance of the illegal goal.  


Demonstrating this beyond reasonable doubt could be a complex task, given that political activities often involve intricate networks and ambiguous communications. The political nature of the communications may invite the jury to agree that the alleged illegal conversations were actually protected free political speech. 


New York Indictment on Payments to Former Porn Star 


The New York indictment accuses President Trump of illegal payments made to a former porn star, alleging violations of campaign finance laws. The primary issue here is whether these payments were intended to influence the outcome of an election, thus requiring them to be reported as campaign expenses. The defense may argue that the payments were personal in nature, which would potentially exempt them from campaign finance regulations. 


The defense has asserted publicly that the payments were made to protect Mrs. Trump from being hurt by the former porn star’s allegations. If the payments were not intended for political purposes, then there is no crime. 


One problem for the defense is that the prosecution reportedly has email or text evidence in which Mr. Trump suggests delaying the payments until after the election because he would then have no reason to pay. This contradicts the “it was only personal” defense because Mrs. Trump would have been just as vulnerable after the election as she was earlier. 


The four indictments against President Trump constitute a legal minefield, each with its unique facets and complications. 


The Presumption of Innocence  


Regardless of someone’s opinion of former President Trump politically or personally, everyone who is facing criminal prosecution is entitled to be presumed innocent unless and until guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. An indictment is not a judgment of guilt; it is merely a ticket to the trial courtroom. 


If you want to learn more about how Florida law applies to you and your own case facts, contact the people who take the time to explain the details. Contact Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law in Tampa. 


From Headlines to Courtrooms: The Final Word 


The multifaceted legal challenges faced by former President Trump serve as a stark reminder of the complexities inherent in the U.S. legal system. While opinions on the former president may differ, the sanctity of the legal process and the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” remain paramount. Staying informed on such pivotal legal matters is essential to understanding the evolving dynamics of our country’s political and legal landscape.  


As residents of Tampa and its neighboring areas, ensuring you have expert legal advice is crucial. Don’t leave your future to chance. If you’re facing legal challenges or simply have questions, reach out to Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law. Your defense is our priority. Reach out to our team at 813-280-1244 today. 

To learn more about how we can help

Contact us Today