Trump prosecutors urge judge to keep gag order in place through sentencing

Former U.S. President Trump's criminal trial on charges of falsifying business records, in New York

By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The prosecutors who won last week's historic conviction of Donald Trump on charges stemming from hush money paid to a porn star on Wednesday urged a judge to keep a gag order in place at least through the former U.S. president's July 11 sentencing.

Trump's lawyers earlier this week asked Justice Juan Merchan to lift the order restricting the Republican presidential candidate's public statements about jurors, witnesses and others involved in the case because the trial is over. Merchan imposed the order before the trial began in April, finding that Trump's history of threatening statements posed a risk of derailing the proceedings.

A Manhattan jury on May 30 found Trump guilty on 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up his former lawyer Michael Cohen's $130,000 payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels for her silence before the 2016 election about a sexual encounter she says she and Trump had. Trump denies the encounter and has vowed to appeal his conviction.

In a letter to Merchan on Wednesday, prosecutors with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office said the court still had an interest in protecting the remaining proceedings.

"The court has an obligation to protect the integrity of these proceedings and the fair administration of justice at least through the sentencing hearing and the resolution of any post-trial motions," the prosecutors wrote.

Trump is expected to renew his request that the judge toss the jury's verdict by mid-June, with prosecutors due to respond at the end of the month. He faces up to four years in prison at his sentencing hearing next month, though fines or probation are more common punishments for those convicted of felony falsification of business records.

Merchan fined Trump $10,000 for violations of the gag order during the seven-week trial, and warned him on May 6 he would be jailed if he ran afoul of the order again.

Trump has argued the gag order violates his right to free speech as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment. His lawyers said lifting the gag order was particularly important since his opponent in the Nov. 5 election, Democratic President Joe Biden, has commented on the verdict, and because the two are set to debate on June 27.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Daniel Wallis)