Jury in Trump trial reaches verdict

Clashing protesters have gathered outside the courthouse where Donald Trump is awaiting his verdict (TIMOTHY A. CLARY)
Clashing protesters have gathered outside the courthouse where Donald Trump is awaiting his verdict (TIMOTHY A. CLARY)

The jury in Donald Trump's hush money trial announced Thursday in a note to the court that it has reached a verdict, indicating that this would be delivered in less than an hour.

The note, issued at 4:20 pm (2020 GMT), said jurors requested a short time more to prepare before being able to announce the verdict.

Trump is accused of falsifying business records to cover up a hush money payment to a porn star on the eve of his 2016 election win, so that the actress would not go public with her claim of a sexual encounter.

Earlier Thursday, the panel had asked Judge Juan Merchan to reread his lengthy instructions on how to interpret the law, and also went back over several segments of evidence in the hush money scandal.

After about two hours of reviewing evidence, the jurors -- their identities kept secret for their own protection amid nationwide political tensions -- retired to their separate room.

Trump, 77, arrived in court earlier Thursday with his now customary daily attack in front of the TV cameras against the "corrupt" judge.

He claimed again to be a victim of a political attack "at the request" of his November election opponent, President Joe Biden.

After already spending more than five weeks attending his trial, Trump has been ordered by Merchan to remain in the courthouse until the verdict arrives.

At the news of the imminent verdict, Trump sat up and one of his sons, Eric, hurriedly left the courtroom.

- Election polls -

Prosecutors say Trump broke the law both with the cover-up of the hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels and the plot to prevent voters from knowing about his behavior during the election.

Trump pleaded not guilty to the 34 felony counts and is hoping for an acquittal or a mistrial, which would be declared if the jury is unable to reach unanimity.

Polls show him running strongly against Biden and the scandal having little impact on his hard-right political movement.

In closing arguments on Tuesday, Trump's defense team insisted the evidence for a conviction simply did not exist, while the prosecution countered that it was voluminous and inescapable.

"The defendant's intent to defraud could not be any clearer," said prosecutor Joshua Steinglass, urging the jurors to use their "common sense" and return a guilty verdict.

If convicted, Trump faces up to four years in prison on each of the 34 counts, but legal experts say that as a first-time offender he is unlikely to get jail time.

A conviction would not bar him from the November ballot and he would almost certainly appeal. In the case of a mistrial, prosecutors could seek a new trial.

Trump -- required to attend every day of the proceedings -- has used his trips to court and the huge media presence to spread his claim that the trial is a Democratic ploy to keep him off the campaign trail.

The verdict will inflame passions as the White House race intensifies in the bitter rematch between Biden and Trump.

In addition to the New York case, Trump has been indicted in Washington and Georgia on charges of conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

He also faces charges in Florida of hoarding huge quantities of classified documents after leaving the White House.

However, the New York case is the only one likely to come to trial by election day.