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The verdict: Inside the courtroom as Donald Trump learned he had been convicted

NEW YORK (AP) — History happened just as everyone was about to leave for the day.

Judge Juan M. Merchan had already summoned Donald Trump, his legal team and prosecutors into the courtroom where the former president has been on trial since mid-April. The judge said he planned to send the jury home in a few minutes — at 4:30 p.m. — with deliberations to resume the next morning.

Trump looked upbeat, having animated chats with his lawyers. A bell that rang in the courtroom whenever the jury had something to tell the court had been silent all day.

In the end, it wasn’t the bell that signaled something was up, but the jingling of a court officer’s keys — a ring full of them clanking as Maj. Michael McKee hustled past the judge’s bench and out a door into a private corridor.

Then, unexpectedly, the judge was back on the bench. There was another note from the jury. Signed at 4:20 p.m., it said they had reached a verdict. Jurors wanted an extra 30 minutes to fill out the verdict form.

The “hurry up and wait” beat of deliberations gave way to anticipatory tension.

“I’m sure you will hear from the sergeant and the major and everyone else, but please let there be no outbursts of any kind when we take a verdict,” Merchan warned everyone in the courtroom. “I’ll be back out in a few minutes.”

As the minutes ticked by, defense lawyer Todd Blanche whispered to Trump, who was stone-faced, arms crossed across his chest. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, whose office brought the case, entered the courtroom and sat with aides in the gallery.

The courtroom was packed with people, among them dozens of reporters, sketch artists, members of the public and Trump’s son Eric. Bragg staffers crammed into the back row of the audience. Court personnel lined the wall next to the judge’s bench. Just two seats were unclaimed, occupied by a Van Gogh sunflower seat cushion and a newspaper that someone had not returned to claim.

Just before 5 p.m., the judge returned to the bench. He reread the portentous note that said, “We the jury have reached a verdict,” and instructed court officers to bring the jury into the courtroom.

The six alternate jurors, who sat through the testimony but weren’t part of deliberations, were brought into the courtroom and seated in the first row of the audience.

The 12 jurors followed. Most looked straight ahead as they walked past Trump.

About a dozen court officers filled the room.

Then, the moment came. The courtroom was silent.

“How say you to the first count of the indictment, charging Donald J. Trump with falsifying business records in the first degree?” a court staffer asked. “Guilty,” the foreperson, whose name has not been publicly released, said in a steady voice.

The same answer, “guilty,” came again and again. Trump was convicted of all 34 counts of falsifying records at his company as part of a broad scheme to cover up payments made to a porn actor during the 2016 election.

As the verdict was read, and dozens of reporters transmitted the news to editors, wireless internet service in the courtroom suddenly became sluggish.

Monitors in another courtroom where more reporters were watching the proceedings on a closed-circuit television feed were turned off as the verdict was read, so members of the media and public who were there to observe could not see Trump’s face as the first “guilty” was read aloud, but a hushed gasp could be heard.

The video feed resumed after the last charge was read aloud, showing Trump sitting with an expressionless stare.

Trump began slowly looking around the room and glanced, still expressionless, at jurors as they affirmed they found him guilty on all counts.

Blanche rested his face in his hands and furrowed his brow.

Merchan thanked the jury for its work, something common at the end of any trial.

“You were engaged in a very stressful and difficult task,” he said, adding that the weeks of the trial were “a long time to be away from your jobs, your families, all of your responsibilities.”

The jury was then excused. Trump stood as jurors filtered out of the courtroom, appearing to be looking at them one-by-one as they passed in front of him.

In the hallway outside the 15th-floor courtroom, cheering could be heard from the street below, where a small group of Trump supporters and detractors had gathered.

As the former president and presumptive Republican nominee walked out of the courtroom, Eric Trump put a hand on his back.

Then, after watching mum as the verdict came, Donald Trump turned to the news cameras awaiting him in the hallway.

“I’m a very innocent man,” he said, before vowing to keep contesting a case he has repeatedly called “a disgrace.”

“We’ll fight to the end, and we’ll win,” he said.

His sentencing his scheduled for July 11, likely in the same courtroom where history was made Thursday.

Michael R. Sisak, Jennifer Peltz, Michelle Price And Jill Colvin, The Associated Press





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