Jonathan Braun, the drug smuggler Trump pardoned, once flew to California to beat an associate with a belt, prosecutors alleged

Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally at Erie Insurance Arena in Erie, Pa., on July 29, 2023.Jeff Swensen/Getty Images
  • A drug smuggler pardoned by Trump was accused of "viciously" beating a younger employee with a belt.

  • Braun's "brutal assault left the 'kid's' entire body 'black and blue,'" prosecutors alleged.

  • Trump commuted Jonathan Braun's sentence on his last day in office as part of a slew of last-minute pardons.

A drug smuggler who was pardoned by then-President Donald Trump once beat an associate so badly with a belt that it left the man's body covered in bruises, prosecutors alleged at the time of his court case.

Trump pardoned Jonathan Braun on his final day in office as part of a slew of last-minute pardons and commutations.

In 2009, Braun fled to Canada, then Israel to avoid prosecution after his "stash house" was raided, according to court filings from prosecutors. While in his "self-imposed exile," Braun continued running his drug operation from an encrypted BlackBerry phone, the documents allege.

He later returned to the US and was indicted in 2010 on accusations of smuggling and selling $1.72 billion worth of marijuana in the US from 2007 to 2010.

Braun's attorneys said he should be released on bail, but prosecutors argued in a court document that he should stay in jail, saying he was a flight risk and pointing to an incident in which they alleged he beat his employee with a belt.

Prosecutors said the worker was younger than Braun and was told to guard $100,000 worth of marijuana in California.

But Braun found out the marijuana had been stolen and ordered the man to shell out $100,000 to pay him back, prosecutors alleged.

When the man refused, Braun and another associate flew to California, broke into the man's house, and Braun started attacking him with his belt, prosecutors alleged in the court filings.

Braun "took off his belt and proceeded to viciously whip his worker with the belt," according to court filings. "At one point, the 'kid' tried to get away from Braun, but Braun's enforcer pushed him back down on the bed so that Braun could continue the beating. In Braun's own words, his brutal assault left the 'kid's' entire body 'black and blue.'"

Prosecutors allege Braun then threatened to get the money from the worker's family and later showed up at the man's parents' house. He eventually got the money, prosecutors said in the court documents.

Prosecutors also alleged that Braun threatened an associate who threatened to rat him out to police, texting her: "[I]f you interfere with my life and make me uncomfortable you will leave me no choice but to do the same back to you in a much worse way."

Braun ultimately pleaded guilty to drug charges and was serving a 10-year sentence when Trump commuted the rest of his sentence.

Trump's decision to commute Braun's sentence scuttled the Justice Department's plan to leverage lesser prison time in exchange for his cooperation in a separate investigation into the predatory lending industry, The New York Times reported.

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