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Jack Smith’s Charges Against Trump Include Potential Death Penalty

Special Counsel Jack Smith’s indictment Tuesday against former President Donald Trump for his role in attempting to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential election includes several weighty felonies, including one for which death may be a penalty.

18 U.S.C § 241, “Conspiracy Against Rights,” includes a penalty of up to 10 years in federal prison. But it adds that if death results from the actions covered under this provision, the offender may be executed:

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; or

If two or more persons go in disguise on the highway, or on the premises of another, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege so secured—

They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, 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.

One person — Ashli Babbitt, a rioter shot by a law enforcement officer — died as a result of the Capitol riot on January 6, which Smith said Tuesday was the result of Trump’s claims about the election. But Democrats have blamed Trump for the unrelated deaths of several protesters and Capitol Police officers.

Democrats — and some of Trump’s Republican opponents — have also tried to blame him for apparent efforts by some of the rioters to kidnap then-Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Smith could try to argue the same.

The other alleged crimes in the January 6 indictment against Trump include lengthy prison terms as penalties as well:

18 U.S.C. § 371 – Conspiracy to Defraud the United States – the maximum penalty is five years in prison, though penalties can be less if the conspiracy is to commit a misdemeanor; in that case, the punishment cannot be greater than the greatest for that crime.

18 U.S.C. § 1512 (k) – Conspiracy to Obstruct an Official Proceeding – this statute, crafted originally to punish witness tampering, has a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison for anyone who “obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding.”

18 U.S.C. § 1512 (c) – Obstruction of and Attempt to Obstruct an Official Proceeding – this likewise carries up to 20 years in prison.

If Trump is convicted of all four charges, and receives the maximum non-lethal penalty, he could be imprisoned for 55 years, if the sentences are set to run consecutively. That, in addition to the possible 460 years in prison in the “documents” case that Smith is prosecuting in federal court in Miami, brings Trump’s maximum federal prison term to 515 years, over half a millennium.

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