Legal experts say both sides will face significant challenges in the indictment against former President Donald Trump.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg laid out 34 counts of falsifying business records to try to conceal unlawful activity from voters. The district attorney says the former president went to great lengths to hide his conduct, accusing him of a scheme to bury negative information during his first presidential campaign back in 2016.
"You see 34 different counts on based on different documents that allegedly contain false information," said Tom Church, an Atlanta-based criminal defense attorney. "In New York that’s generally a misdemeanor. However, if there’s an attempt defraud or if documents are being falsified for criminal purposes then that could make it a felony punishable by up to four years."
"This is more than about garden-variety business fraud this is about the integrity of American elections," Church said.
Church says prosecutors will have to overcome challenges like key witness Michael Cohen. He is the former president’s "fixer" who pleaded guilty in 2018 to making false statements.
"If this case boils down to Trump's intent, all they have are cooperating witnesses, I’m a defense lawyer. I like my chances there," Church said.
Kay Levine, a professor at Emory University’s Law School who specializes in criminal law, says strong cases for prosecution can suffer once an experienced defense team grills witnesses and casts doubt on evidence.
"Cases can look very strong at the indictment stage because prosecutors has run the show up until that point," Levine said. "Things that seemed very straightforward look not so straightforward."
Winning a case against a well-known figure can be tough.
"High-profile defendants cases tend to be very challenging to win," Levine said.
Defense will face a tough road as well.
"It looks like a lot of witnesses have come forward to testify to the scheme orchestrated by the former president and his allies," Levine said.
"There’s a paper trail. A jury can look at this and say yeah clearly this about burying this information and these aren’t really legal fees. You’re just paying through an attorney. That doesn’t make it a legal fee," Church said.
Pre-trial publicity will play a major factor as well. Many potential jurors will have very strong opinions about the former president. The challenge will be finding jurors who can make clear, unbiased decisions based solely on the evidence.