‘Straight Words’: 4 differences between Trump and Cousin Ray Ray in court

By Naba’a Muhammad, Contributing Columnist

The judge in the Trump hush-money case in New York, which revolves around charges the GOP boss paid off a porn star to keep an affair quiet and lied about it to flim-flam voters, has gotten a ton of media coverage. Judge Juan M. Merchan told the presidential hopeful that “…violations of a gag order barring Trump from inflammatory out-of-court comments about witnesses, jurors, and others closely connected to the case could result in jail time.”

“The $1,000 fine imposed Monday marks the second time since the trial began last month that Trump has been sanctioned for violating the gag order. He was fined $9,000 last week, $1,000 for each of nine violations. It appears that the $1,000 fines are not serving as a deterrent. Therefore, going forward, this court will have to consider a jail sanction,” Judge Merchan said. “Trump’s statements,” the judge added, ‘threaten to interfere with the fair administration of justice and constitute a direct attack on the rule of law. I cannot allow that to continue,’” the Associated Press reported May 6.

The Associated Press continued: “‘The last thing I want to do is put you in jail,’ Merchan said. ‘You are the former President of the United States and possibly the next president as well. There are many reasons why incarceration is truly a last resort for me. To take that step would be disruptive to these proceedings.’ The latest violation stems from an April 22 interview with television channel Real America’s Voice in which Trump criticized the speed at which the jury was picked and claimed, without evidence, that it was stacked with Democrats.”

Insulting the judge, prosecutors, jurors, and the legal process is nothing new for Donald Trump, who Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) once called the “former White supremacist in chief.”

Between some polling and a Black Conservative Federation event in South Carolina in February, where he was given a “Champion of Black America” moniker, Mr. MAGA Man has argued Blacks are siding with him. Blacks see him being unfairly treated given four cases and 91 indictments, he declared. These things resonate with Blacks who have suffered from criminal justice system wrongdoing, Trump said.

Let’s stop the nonsense: Trump isn’t Cousin Ray Ray hoping not to go to prison. Let’s speak straight words.

Prison Policy Initiative actual facts: Black Americans are 13 percent of the U.S. population and 37 percent of people in prison. Blacks are 48 percent of people serving life, life without parole, or “virtual life” sentences. Arrest rates for Black vs. White Americans? 6,109 per 100,000 for Blacks vs. 2,795 per 100,000 for Whites. Number of arrests of Black Americans in 2018? 2.8 million. Percent of people on probation or parole who are Black? 30 percent.

Contempt of court?

As the Pretrial Justice Institute explained, “Generally speaking, a court can declare a defendant to be in contempt for any number of disruptive acts that interfere with the administration of justice, including violating a formal court order. Contempt of court may occur directly (committed in the immediate vicinity of the court) or indirectly (committed outside of court).”

According to Ask A Sociologist, on thesociologistdc.com, “Using data from two mid-Atlantic states found that Blacks were more likely to get detention and be adjudicated delinquent for most offense types, including status offenses, probation violations, and contempt. Other research has also found that Blacks are disadvantaged in contempt cases.”

With contempt, a judge can institute fines, immediate punishment like incarceration or tack on time after conviction.

One of the most famous contempt of court cases occurred at the Chicago 8 trial where activists were accused of fomenting riots at the Democratic National Convention. Black Panther Bobby Seale was declared in contempt, bound and gagged. A U.S. federal district court judge, Julius Hoffman, handled the case. “Bobby Seale had not participated in the advance planning for the demonstration, but was arrested and tried … . A co-founder of the Black Panthers, Seale had gone to Chicago as a last-minute replacement for Eldridge Cleaver. Seale, whose lawyer was unavailable due to hospitalization, was denied both a continuance and self-representation. Seale verbally lashed out, interrupting the proceedings. On October 29, 1969, in an extraordinary move, Judge Julius Hoffman ordered Bobby Seale bound and gagged. His trial was severed from the Chicago Eight on November 5, 1969. Finding him in contempt, Hoffman sentenced Seale to four years in prison,” said the Library of Congress. His conviction was later overturned.

Trump can play with the judge; Ray Ray knows not to.

What fines?

Fines ain’t nothing to Trump but for the Ray Ray’s of the world, fines destroy lives. Kiren Jahangeer, in Fees and Fines: The Criminalization of Poverty, an analysis for the American Bar Association,  wrote, “Increases in criminal justice spending have strained budgets and led to an amplified reliance on fines and fees in order to defray costs. This places a disproportionate burden on poor offenders, typically racial minorities, resulting in incarceration for minor offenses.”

“According to recent numbers, approximately two-thirds of people in prison have been assessed court fines and fees. … In some states, the inability to pay fees and fines and the resulting criminal records prohibit individuals from exercising their right to vote.”

Ten years ago, an uprising exploded in Ferguson, Mo., after the police killing of unarmed teen Mike Brown, Jr., and electrified the nation. The Justice Dept. found police “overly focused on revenue rather than public safety. … Police officers were told to increase revenue through fees and fines. … Furthermore, officers’ promotions depended on the number of citations issued, and thus the revenue they generated, leading to increased arrests and allegations of racial bias, especially in predominantly black neighborhoods,” said the American Bar Association analysis.

A 32-year-old Black man was targeted in Ferguson while sitting in his car after playing basketball. “The officer accused the man of being a pedophile due to the presence of children in the park and ordered him out of his car to be searched. The officer also asked to search the man’s car, to which the man objected, citing his constitutional rights. The officer then arrested the man at gunpoint and charged him with eight violations of Ferguson’s municipal code. … Due to these charges, the man lost his job as a contractor with the federal government, a position he had held for years.”

Ray Ray got a lawyer?

According to an Associated Press analysis, “Trump’s presidential campaign and his other fundraising organizations have devoted $76.7 million to legal fees over the two years.” Cousin Ray Ray ain’t holding fish fry’s, hustling bibles, or hawking ugly sneakers to keep a mouthpiece. He’s got an underpaid, overworked public defender. He may not even meet his lawyer until his day in court. Ray Ray is also less likely to get bail.

All of this takes a toll Trump knows nothing about.

“A 2022 analysis of Oregon’s public defense system and attorney workloads, called The Oregon Project, found that the 592 attorneys working in indigent defense are tasked with a workload that would require almost 1,900 attorneys to provide adequate representation,” said Ask a Sociologist. That’s Oregon. Can you imagine what Ray Ray faces in Georgia, Alabama, or Mississippi?

“Every year, more than 2.3 million felony and 10 million misdemeanor criminal cases are prosecuted by over 2,300 individual prosecutor’s offices in the United States. Each day, over 450,000 people await trial in jail because they cannot post bail. For example, defendants who cannot post bail are detained pre-trial. Those who are held in jail while awaiting trial are more likely to plead guilty to obtain credit time to a sentence and thus end the process,” noted researchers Examining Racial and Ethnic Disparity in Prosecutor’s Bail Requests and Downstream Decision-making.

Whiteness, wealth and warriors?

Lasty, Trump comes with Whiteness, wealth, and warriors. His supporters are armed and angry. We’ve seen what they did January 6, 2020, in an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Much of the country is scared to death about what a guilty verdict or the fall election could bring. A recent poll found 41 percent of Americans believe civil war is coming. Some say in as little as five years.

A Sage Journal article noted, “Trump supporters signified white selfhood by not only symbolically positioning themselves against the racialized others they denigrated, but also signifying that they were racially aggrieved.” So while Trump is the champion of White lives, defender of White interests and example of White suffering, Ray Ray is just trying to catch a break.

Whether you believe he is a billionaire or not, Trump is a man of wealth, rich friends, and has found a place in the hearts and wallets of supporters. He’s gon’ be alright. Ray Ray is waiting for his girlfriend to put some money on prison books so he can buy Oodles of Noodles. 

Naba’a Muhammad, award winning Final Call editor, is host of “Straight Words With Naba’a Richard Muhammad, Bj Murphy, and James G. Muhammad,” which airs live Tuesdays, 9 p.m. to 12 a.m Central Time, on WVON AM 1690 Black Talk Radio Chicago and is livestreamed at the iHeart Radio app and WVON.com. Get more of his writing and content at straightwords.com.

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