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Trump lawyers oppose cameras at arraignment, warn of ‘circus-like atmosphere’


Former US President Donald Trump waves as he boards his plane at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach, Florida, on April 3, 2023.

Chandan Khanna | Afp | Getty Images

Lawyers for former President Donald Trump urged a judge to deny a request by media outlets for cameras in a Manhattan courtroom where Trump is set to be arraigned on criminal charges Tuesday.

“We submit that the media request should be denied because it will create a circus-like atmosphere at the arraignment, raise unique security concerns, and is inconsistent with President Trump’s presumption of innocence,” Trump’s lawyers said in their letter to Judge Juan Merchan.

The letter was made public as Trump was flying from his home in Florida to New York City in anticipation of his court appearance. 

Trump was indicted Thursday by a grand jury on charges related to his then-lawyer’s $130,000 hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 presidential election.

He is the first U.S. former president to face criminal charges, a fact that has been cited by the group of media outlets that asked Merchan for permission to cover Tuesday’s arraignment with still and video cameras, in addition to radio recording devices.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting Trump, in its own letter to Merchan on Monday did not take a position on whether the judge should allow cameras in the courtroom.

However, that letter from assistant DA Matthew Colangelo noted that New York state’s highest court has upheld the constitutionality of the law banning audiovisual coverage of most courtroom proceedings.

And Colangelo added that “even if cameras are not categorically barred,” judges have the discretion to “control the conduct of judicial proceedings.”

“It would thus be a defensible exercise of the Court’s discretion to exclude or restrict videography, photography, and radio coverage of the arraignment in the interest of avoiding potential prejudice to the defendant, maintaining an orderly proceeding, assuring the safety of the participants in the proceeding, or for other reasons within the Court’s broad authority to manage and control these proceedings,” the letter said.

But Colangelo also pointed out that Merchan recently allowed still photographs to be taken in his courtroom before the commencement of proceedings in the criminal prosecution of the Trump Organization.

In that case, Trump’s company was convicted of a scheme to avoid paying taxes on compensation to executives.



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