New federal indictment against Trump features statute that includes death penalty as possible sentence

August 2, 2023
Ben Marquis

A new federal criminal indictment was unveiled on Tuesday by Special Counsel Jack Smith against former President Donald Trump, this time in regard to the actions of him and other alleged co-conspirators to dispute the 2020 election results and delay the January 6 congressional certification of those results.

Notably, one of the statutes that Trump is now charged under includes the death penalty as a possible sentence following conviction, Breitbart reported.

To be sure, it doesn't appear that Smith would seek a death sentence, at least not now -- though arguments for that particular penalty could certainly be made in the future -- but the combined charges could nonetheless send the former president to prison for several decades if convicted and sentenced to serve maximum non-lethal penalties consecutively.

Possible 10 years in prison, life sentence, or death penalty

The 45-page indictment from Special Counsel Smith includes one count of an alleged "conspiracy against rights," which purportedly is in regard to an alleged "conspiracy against the right to vote and to have one's vote counted."

That falls under 18 U.S.C. 241, which states: "If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same ... They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both."

However, the statute adds that "if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, ... or an attempt to kill, they shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death."

Though the indictment appears to focus exclusively on the right to vote, the document does make reference to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and mentions that some individuals within the crowd had seemingly called for the death and/or kidnapping of then-Vice President Mike Pence and then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

Further, a handful of protestors died on the day of the riot, including one who was shot by a police officer, and a handful of police officers died in the days and weeks following the riot, either from health issues or suicide, and Breitbart noted that some Democrats and media figures have pinned the blame for all of those deaths on Trump -- meaning that Smith could conceivably do the same in an amended indictment and seek the death penalty against Trump.

Death penalty aside, Trump faces 55 years in prison

Setting aside that lethal potentiality for the moment, the other charges in the indictment would effectively serve as a death sentence for the former president if convicted and ordered to serve maximum consecutive sentences, given his advanced age.

The primary charge upon which much of the indictment is based is 18 U.S.C. 371, conspiracy to defraud the United States, which states: "If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both."

In addition to that, Trump is also charged under two separate provisions of 18 U.S.C. 1512, a statute that used to deal with witness tampering but now also includes obstruction of official proceedings -- such as the congressional certification of the election results.

Under 1512(c)(2), "Whoever corruptly --otherwise obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both."

In conjunction with that is 1512(k), which states: "Whoever conspires to commit any offense under this section shall be subject to the same penalties as those prescribed for the offense the commission of which was the object of the conspiracy," which means a maximum sentence of 20 years, as in 1512(c)(2).

Assuming that Special Counsel Smith declines to pursue the death penalty under 18 U.S.C. 241 and simply seeks a maximum sentence of 10 years, Trump, if convicted on that and the other charges and given maximum consecutive sentences, could face a total of 55 years in federal prison -- to say nothing of the hundreds of years behind bars he potentially faces in Smith's other indictment over Trump's retention of government documents after leaving the White House.

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