“Vindictive Prosecution”: Judge To Hear Motions To Dismiss In Trump Documents Case

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Authored by Jacob Burg and Janice Hisle via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Former President Donald Trump aide Walt Nauta visits Versailles restaurant with Mr. Trump in Miami, Fla., on June 13, 2023. (Alex Brandon/AP Photo)

After the prosecution and defense rested their cases in former President Donald Trump’s trial in Manhattan, his attorneys and those of co-defendant Walt Nauta will appear in southeast Florida on May 22 to argue for the dismissal of his classified documents case.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon will preside over back-to-back hearings that consider multiple motions to dismiss the case.

Mr. Nauta’s attorneys will argue that the case should be dismissed based on selective and vindictive prosecution.

Judge Cannon will then hear arguments from all defendants to dismiss the case on insufficient pleading.

President Trump will be absent for both hearings in Fort Pierce, Florida, after Judge Cannon granted his “motion for leave to be excused” on May 14.

The defendants have filed multiple motions to dismiss the case, including one citing the Presidential Records Act and another invoking “unconstitutional vagueness” that Judge Cannon heard during a March 14 hearing.

President Trump also filed a May 21 motion to dismiss, alleging prosecutorial misconduct when the FBI seized 15 boxes of documents during the Mar-a-Lago raid.

Judge Cannon postponed the trial indefinitely to consider additional motions to dismiss, including “indictment based on unlawful appointment and funding of Special Counsel” on June 21.

There are also partial evidentiary hearings scheduled for June 24–26 and a “defense reciprocal discovery” hearing on July 10.

As a result of these pre-trial issues, Judge Cannon has indefinitely postponed the trial for this case, which experts say may not occur before the November election.

The Justice Department charged Mr. Nauta with multiple counts, including: “participating in a conspiracy to obstruct justice,” after President Trump tasked him with moving some of the boxes containing classified documents at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago resort and residence in Palm Beach, Florida.

Nauta’s Motion

Mr. Nauta’s attorney, Stanley Woodward, Jr., argues that the Justice Department’s Special Counsel’s Office decision to prosecute the valet was “both selective and vindictive.”

Mr. Woodward wrote that the legal standard for “selective prosecution” is that a prosecution “has a discriminatory effect” and that it was motivated by a “discriminatory purpose.”

He also describes vindictive prosecution as when a prosecutor’s charging decision was “motivated by a desire to punish [the defendant] for doing something that the law plainly allowed him to do” while treating the defendant with “genuine animus.”

Since others at the resort had moved the boxes “in the same or similar time, manner, and place as Mr. Nauta,” it would be discriminatory to charge him and no one else with this crime, Mr. Woodward argued in the motion to dismiss.

The Special Counsel’s Office rejected this argument and said it rests Mr. Nauta’s comparison to two other employees of President Trump “but whose conduct was not remotely similar to his own.” Therefore, it fails to prove that Mr. Nauta was selected for prosecution over those individuals for “improper reasons,” prosecutors say.

As for vindictive prosecution, Mr. Woodward argued that Mr. Nauta was only prosecuted after he declined the Special Counsel’s Office’s request that he give “full cooperation in the investigation.”

Mr. Woodward believes the indictment was “vindictive” because it appears that prosecutors targeted Mr. Nauta after he chose to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights and declined to testify in front of a grand jury.

The Justice Department called this a “novel and unsupported claim” and wrote that if the court accepted it, that would imply that any defendant asked to provide “full cooperation” would be immune from charges by simply “declining the offer.”

‘Shotgun Pleading’ Motion

The second hearing will feature the defense’s motion to dismiss the indictment on insufficient pleading.

Attorneys can argue insufficient pleading in cases where two or more offenses are joined in the same count, the same offense is charged in more than one count, such as “double jeopardy,” there is a lack of specificity, or the prosecution fails to state an offense clearly.

Defendants write that an indictment must contain a “plain, concise, and definite written statement of the essential facts constituting the offense charged.”

They argue that the indictment “fails to comprehensibly set forth … distinct violations of federal criminal law.”

Former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom at Manhattan Criminal Court with attorney Todd Blanche on May 21, 2024 in New York City. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

According to the defendants, the indictment is based on a “shotgun pleading,” defined by the Florida Bar as a case with “multiple counts that incorporate the allegations of every preceding one” as one example.

Another involves failing to separate each claim into a different count or when multiple claims are levied at multiple defendants without specifying which defendant is responsible for which claim, which is also known as “duplicity.”

The defendants claim the indictment consists of a “miasma of largely political complaints about how [President Trump] disposed of paperwork from his administration during his term of office.”

The defendants also argue that there are 32 counts only charging President Trump, but then the same are “employed against Nauta in counts 33–37 and 39–41.”

This creates the perception of a “shotgun pleading,” they argue, specifically “duplicity.”

The defendants also list a number of additions to the original indictment they believe would needlessly confuse a jury, including repeat references to “uncharged offense allegations,” such as how Mar-a-Lago employees allegedly stored the documents and who the Justice Department accused of hearing about the documents after President Trump took them from the White House in 2021.

“The vague, prejudicial shotgun-allegation format of the indictment, which veers from one uncharged aspersion of bureaucratic complaint to another … merits dismissal,” the defendants’ counsel wrote in the motion.

In response, the Justice Department said the indictment contains a “detailed, clear, and thorough recitation of the factual allegations” and makes clear “what crimes [Mr. Nauta] is charged with committing; how, when, and where he committed them; and with whom.”

Phill Kline, a former district attorney and Kansas Attorney General, told The Epoch Times that it’s a “high legal bar to obtain such a dismissal” regarding the defense’s motions.

Mr. Kline added that as both sides argue their positions at the hearing, it will be important to look for “inconsistencies in the Department of Justice’s decisions” and whether their reasoning is consistent with the facts.

 

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