OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
An attorney alleges that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg could be in legal hot water and his career in jeopardy following a “prejudicial press conference” he gave after indicting former President Donald Trump.
In a Substack piece, Daniel R. Street laid out a case against Bragg, claiming he improperly biased the case against the former president ahead of a trial later this year that he indicated was a major ethical violation that could lead to disbarment under normal circumstances.
“There are ethical rules and obligations imposed on prosecutors, though many Americans are unaware of these rules. For instance, did you know prosecutors are supposed to protect the right of the accused to a Fair Trial? Did you know that prosecutors are supposed to seek justice, not simply convictions? Or that prosecutors are not supposed to make prejudicial public comments to media about the credibility, character, or reputation of the accused or to comment regarding the guilt or innocence of the accused? Did you know prosecutors are not supposed to include irrelevant, unnecessary scandalous allegations in charging documents?” Street’s piece begins.
“If you were unaware prosecutors owe these obligations to those accused of crimes, you are not alone. In fact, the recent conduct of the Manhattan District Attorney, Alvin Bragg, might lead one to conclude he is unfamiliar with these obligations as well,” he added.
Street notes that Trump appeared in a Manhattan courtroom on April 4 to answer the charges, during which time he pleaded not guilty. Shortly afterward, Bragg spoke to reporters for roughly six minutes and then took questions from reporters for about the same amount of time.
“The DA used this press conference to make inflammatory and prejudicial remarks against President Trump. He publicly attacked President Trump’s character and publicly called into question his credibility and reputation,” Street wrote.
“The DA publicly asserted President Trump’s complicity and guilt in allegedly covering up several unidentified crimes (these alleged crimes are not spelled out in the indictment or the so-called ‘Statement of Facts‘ and the DA refused to identify the actual crimes at the press conference, making only vague references to alleged ‘election law’ and ‘tax’ violations). The DA used inflammatory and misleading language to characterize President Trump’s alleged involvement by claiming Trump repeatedly made ‘false statements,'” Street notes further.
The press conference was widely covered by numerous news media outlets, including PBS, CBS News, Fox News, Forbes Magazine, and C-Span. Additionally, the Manhattan DA’s website features a link to the CBS News broadcast of the press conference as well as a link to the press release issued by the DA’s office detailing the charges brought against Trump, the attorney noted further.
Street said that, in his view, the press conference and press release, as well as numerous alleged “facts” included in the “Statement of Facts” that accompanied the indictment, are clearly inappropriate under New York’s Rules of Professional Conduct.
The attorney goes on to cite several ways that defendants are supposedly guaranteed the right to a fair and impartial trial, all of which are explained in the Constitution, by American Bar Association and New York Bar standards, and by Supreme Court precedent, among others.
“Clearly, the Rules prohibit prosecutors from making statements relating to the character, credibility or reputation of the accused, from expressing any opinion as to the guilt of the accused or from even stating the accused is charge[d] with a crime unless the prosecutor qualifies the statement to include the presumption of innocence. DA Bragg’s presser flies in the face of these prohibitions,” Street notes further.
“What did DA Bragg do in his press conference? Watch it for yourself. He definitely ‘elaborated,’ in fact, he repeatedly used inflammatory phrases not included in any of the charging documents or in the Penal Code provisions allegedly violated. He proceeded as though these rules do not exist,” he wrote.
After listing several ways in which he believes Bragg violated his oath of office and ethics rules that are supposed to guide his conduct regarding the accused, Street concludes:
Prosecutors do get disciplined for making prejudicial statements to the press. …This case already was the subject of scandalous pre-indictment, prejudicial public statements emanating from the Manhattan DA’s office through a former employee who wrote a book about an ongoing investigation and through leaks about the indictment and arraignment which appear to emanate from the DA’s office.
Furthermore, the DA knew full well the charges by his office drew the attention of the world. His press conference literally counted on it. One would think the DA’s office would be more careful about making still more prejudicial, inflammatory public statements in light of the unprecedented pre-indictment publication by one his office’s former prosecutors, the leaks about the indictment and the worldwide press interest in the case. If all of this leads you to conclude these charges are about politics and not crimes, join the club. Millions of Americans feel the same way.