Here are some of the legal news stories making headlines this week:
A federal grand jury in New York indicted Rep. George Santos (R-NY) on criminal charges.
- Santos stands charged with 13 counts, including seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of making materially false statements to the House of Representatives. The grand jury accused Santos of misusing campaign funds, fraudulently collecting COVID-19 unemployment benefits, and lying about his personal finances on House financial disclosure forms.
- Santos pled not guilty to the charges on Wednesday. After his arraignment, Santos said, “I’m going to fight my battle. I’m going to deliver. I’m going to fight the witch hunt. I’m going to take care of clearing my name. And I look forward to doing that.” Santos also said he will remain in Congress while the legal proceedings continue, and he plans to continue his reelection campaign. He is next expected to appear in court on June 30.
- Republican leadership in Congress has signaled that they will not push for Santos to resign or be expelled from the House unless he is convicted. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said that an indicted congressman has “a right to vote, but they have to go to trial.” McCarthy also indicated that his views might change if Santos is convicted. Republican House majority leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) said decisions about Santos’s future in Congress would be made after the proceedings concluded. “In America, there is a presumption of innocence, but they’re serious charges. He’s going to have to go through the legal process,” he said. However, some rank-and-file Republican lawmakers called on Santos to resign. Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY) called Santos a “serial fraudster” and Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY) said Santos’s conduct was “embarrassing and disgraceful.”
A jury found former President Donald Trump liable for sexual abuse and defamation in a lawsuit brought by writer E. Jean Carroll.
- A New York jury awarded Carroll $5 million in damages for her battery and defamation claims, but the jury found Trump was not liable for her alleged rape.
- The trial included a number of dramatic moments. Carroll took the stand to testify, accusing Trump of raping her in the 1990s and detailing how the incident traumatized her. Two of Carroll’s friends testified that she told them about the incident soon after it occurred. And two other women testified about their own unrelated encounters with Trump where he allegedly sexually abused them. Trump’s team did not present any witnesses in his defense, Trump did not take the stand to testify, and he did not attend the trial at all. However, Carroll’s legal team played video footage from Trump’s deposition and the Access Hollywood hot mic recording, in which Trump bragged about groping and kissing women without their consent, was also admitted into evidence and played in court.
- After the verdict, Carroll said she was “overwhelmed with joy and happiness and delight for the women in this country.” “This is not about the money. This is about getting my name back,” Carroll continued. Trump has repeatedly criticized Carroll, the lawsuit, the trial, and the judge who oversaw it. Trump wrote on his social media platform, Truth Social, after the jury returned its verdict, “I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHO THIS WOMAN IS. THIS VERDICT IS A DISGRACE — A CONTINUATION OF THE GREATEST WITCH HUNT OF ALL TIME!”
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