A Jamaican-born judge has been assigned to preside over former United States President Donald Trump’s criminal case in Washington, D.C.
The Office of Special Counsel Jack Smith has assigned District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan to preside over Trump’s trial.
Trump, who was indicted on Tuesday for his widespread and brazen efforts in trying to cling on to power after he was defeated in the 2020 US Presidential Election by Joe Biden, will be arraigned in Washington, D.C. Thursday afternoon.
Special Counsel Smith filed the indictment in US Federal District Court in Washington, D.C., accusing the former president of three conspiracies – defrauding the United States; obstructing an official government proceeding, that is the certification of the Electoral College vote; and depriving nationals of their civil right, the right to have their votes counted.
Smith also charged Trump with obstructing or attempting to obstruct an official proceeding.
Chutkan, 61, who was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and came to the US for college as a teenager, has very vociferous against efforts to overturn the US Presidential Election and disrupt the transfer of power.
According to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Judge Chutkan was appointed to the court in June 2014.
Chutkan received her B.A. in Economics from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she was an Associate Editor of the Law Review and a Legal Writing Fellow.
After law school, she worked in private practice for three years, then joined the District of Columbia Public Defender Service (“PDS”), where she worked as a trial attorney and supervisor.
During her tenure at PDS, the district court said she argued several appellate cases and tried over 30 cases, including numerous serious felony matters.
Eleven years later, she left PDS to join Boies, Schiller, & Flexner LLP, where she specialized in litigation and white-collar criminal defense, the district court said.
During her 12 years at the firm, it said her clients included antitrust class action plaintiffs, as well as individual and corporate defendants involved in complex state and federal litigation.
From 1996 – 2000 Judge Chutkan was a member of the Steering Committee for the Criminal Law and Individual Rights Section of the District of Columbia Bar.
She is a frequent lecturer on trial techniques, and she has served as a faculty member at the Harvard Law School Trial Advocacy Workshop, the district court said.
It will not be the first time that Judge Chutkan will be dealing with the former president and his lawyers. She previously dealt with the ex-president in November 2021, when she vehemently rejected Trump’s bid to prohibit the Select Committee in the US House of Representatives, investigating the January 6 riot on the Capital, from accessing more than 700 pages of records from Trump’s White House.
At the time, she ruled: “Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President.”
After Trump’s indictment, for the third time, on Tuesday, Caribbean American Democratic Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke reiterated that “no one is above the law.”
“A year ago, the bipartisan Select Committee on January 6th began an 18-month probe into what occurred following the 2020 election, and on and around January 6th. Although Mr. Trump asserted the committee found no proof of his misconduct, today’s indictment makes clear that the bipartisan House select committee created a roadmap to justice for our institutions responsible for upholding the rule of law,” Congresswoman Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, told Caribbean Life.
“No one is above the law – including Donald Trump,” stressed the representative for the predominantly Caribbean 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn. “For the sake of our democracy, I will hold faith that this indictment will play out through the legal process, without interference.
“No matter your political affiliation or ideology, I implore all Americans to take stock in the significance of today’s indictment and let this case proceed peacefully in court,” Clarke continued.
Tuesday’s indictment says that “Each of these conspiracies — which built on the widespread mistrust the defendant was creating through pervasive and destabilizing lies about election fraud — targeted a bedrock function of the United States federal government: the nation’s process of collecting, counting and certifying the results of the presidential election.”
The indictment says Trump’s repeated claims of rampant election fraud “were false, and the defendant knew they were false,” adding: “Despite having lost, the defendant was determined to remain in power.”
Claiming election interference, Trump denounced the latest indictment in a statement: “Why did they wait two and a half years to bring these fake charges, right in the middle of President Trump’s winning campaign for 2024?”
His lead lawyer, John Lauro, told reporters: “I would like them to try to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Donald Trump believed that these allegations were false.”
The special counsel’s office has summoned Trump for his initial court appearance in this case on Thursday before a magistrate judge in US Federal District Court in Washington, D.C.
In June, Trump was arraigned in a US Federal District court in Miami on charges that he had put national security secrets at risk and obstructed investigators.
At the time, Clarke that that “no one is above the law.”
“Ours is a government of laws and not of men,” she told Caribbean Life. “And no one, including a former president, is above the law. For a second time, a grand jury has found probable cause to indict former President Trump. “But this time, on counts related to his possession of, and refusal to return, classified documents including those of national security concern.
“In America’s judicial system, every single person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and Mr. Trump will have the same constitutional rights as every other American citizen,” Clarke added.
One of Trump’s two new lawyers, entered a not-guilty plea on behalf of his client.
“We most certainly enter a plea of not guilty,” said Todd Blanche, speaking for Trump when asked by Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman about Trump’s plea.
The former president, who did not speak at his arraignment, was charged with 37 criminal counts, including seven violations of federal law.
Federal prosecutors have also charged Trump and his person aide, Walt Nauta, with “conspiracy to obstruct justice, withholding government documents, corruptly concealing records, concealing a document in a federal investigation and scheming to conceal their efforts.”
In early April, Caribbean-American Democratic legislators in New York welcomed the decision by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to charge Trump with 34 felony charges of falsifying business records in the first degree.
The indictment surrounds Trump’s reimbursements to his former fixer, Michael D. Cohen, the prosecution’s key witness, for a hush-money payment to pornographic star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in Manhattan.
“If America is to remain a vibrant democracy and be a nation of laws, our laws must be applied universally,” Clarke said. “The presidency is meant to represent our highest ideals as Americans. To witness an individual who once held that sacred title fall to such contemptible lows will leave a scar not easily healed.
“But we must find reassurance in the fact that our justice system has refused to allow former President Trump to escape the consequences of his alleged actions,” the congresswoman added.
New York State Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, who chairs the Brooklyn Democratic Party, said that Trump’s arraignment shows that “justice still endures and that nobody, including a former President, is above the law.”
The Fulton County prosecutor in Georgia is also investigating Trump’s attempt to reverse his election defeat in that state in 2020.