Manhattan DA downgrades felonies in NYC while potentially upgrading Trump's charge to felony

During his first year in office in 2022, Bragg downgraded 52% of felony cases to misdemeanors.

Published: March 20, 2023 6:39pm

Updated: March 20, 2023 11:17pm

While the Manhattan district attorney is pursuing a possible felony indictment against former President Donald Trump on a charge stemming from an alleged hush money payment to Stormy Daniels, the Democratic prosecutor downgraded half of his felony cases to misdemeanors last year.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is reportedly targeting Trump in a grand jury probe into an alleged hush money scheme involving Daniels, an adult film actress who received $130,000 near the end of the 2016 presidential campaign so she wouldn't disclose her alleged 2006 affair with Trump.

Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen paid Daniels the $130,000, and Trump reimbursed him through installments.

Bragg could argue that Trump falsified business records after federal prosecutors in a case against Cohen said that Trump's company "falsely accounted" for Trump's reimbursement of Cohen as legal expenses, The New York Times reported. Falsifying business records is a misdemeanor in New York, but it could become a felony if Trump's "intent to defraud" included an intent to conceal or commit a second crime.

The second crime could be an improper campaign contribution from Cohen to Trump's campaign since it was to benefit his candidacy, according to the Times.

However, despite potentially upgrading a misdemeanor to a felony in Trump's case, Bragg has a history of downgrading felony charges to misdemeanors in New York City.

During his first year in office in 2022, Bragg downgraded 52% of felony cases to misdemeanors, which was up from 39% in 2019 under the prior district attorney, the New York Post reported.

His office won felony convictions at a rate of 51%, down from 68% in 2019. His misdemeanor conviction rate was 29%, compared to 53% in 2019.

Bragg declined to prosecute 1,119 felony cases during his first 11 months in office compared to 828 declined in 2019 by his predecessor,  a 35% increase.

Bail was requested in only 49% of felony cases by Bragg's office during that same time period, down from 69% in 2019.

Felony assaults, rape, and robbery increased in 2022 on Bragg's watch, with overall violent crimes jumping nearly 27%.

Bragg issued a "Day One" memo his first week in office that listed crimes that wouldn't be prosecuted and downgraded felonies. A month after the memo was sent out, Bragg reversed some of the policies, reinstating crimes involving a firearm as a felony.

Despite the increase in crime in New York City, Bragg is focusing on the grand jury probe regarding Trump.

On Saturday, Trump said that he expected to be arrested on Tuesday, but Bragg's office has not publicly confirmed or denied the former president's statement.

On Monday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, and Administration Committee Chairman Bryan Steil sent a letter to Bragg demanding he testify about Trump's possible indictment and provide documentation regarding the investigation into the former president, which has been ongoing "since at least 2018," the chairmen wrote.

"The only potential speculated crime that could be alleged here would be a violation of campaign finance law, according to one scholar, a charge that the Justice Department has already declined to bring," the chairmen wrote.

The statute of limitations for any alleged crimes involving the former president is set to expire soon, likely explaining Bragg's "rush to indictment," they added.

"Your decision," they wrote, "to pursue such a politically motivated prosecution — while adopting progressive criminal justice policies that allow career 'criminals [to] run[ ] the streets' of Manhattan — requires congressional scrutiny about how public safety funds appropriated by Congress are implemented by local law-enforcement agencies."

Bragg's office didn't immediately provide comment on Monday.

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