A good friend of mine, Mark Allenbaugh, is a much-sought-after expert on federal criminal sentencing guidelines. Mark agrees that the question of whether or not the DOJ will indict Donald Trump on the four charges recommended by the January 6 Committee on Monday could be moot. That decision may have already been taken by the DOJ and the J6 Committee could play no role either way.
But that doesn’t diminish the intoxicating frisson of pleasure I got from hearing those recommendations read out loud by Jamie Raskin. Hearing the charges read with the passionless precision of law reminds me of the old adage: vengeance is a dish that is best when served cold.
Whether or not the DOJ accepts (or needs) the J6 Committee’s recommendations, Mark has an expert’s opinion on what those charges could add up to in the way of sentencing upon conviction. “So,” Allenbaugh said, “if DOJ indicts Trump on the four recommended charges — obstruction of justice, conspiracy against the U.S., false statements, and inciting an insurrection — he’d be looking at a maximum penalty of 40 to 43 years’ imprisonment.”
It’s important to note that a statutory maximum sentence is seldom applied. Mark Allenbaugh thinks the actual sentence will turn out to be far less than that. Even so, it could add up to one or two decades, a virtual life sentence for Trump. Besides which it’s a well-known statistical fact that prison shortens life expectancy. So once sentenced and incarcerated, Trump probably won’t ever see the light of day again.
Mr. Allenbaugh also believes that Trump is a flight risk, a belief I do not share. In fact we have a side bet about that. If Trump runs off to Russia or the DPRK or some similarly Trump-friendly venue, Mark gets a bottle of scotch. If he doesn’t, I get a book. Not terribly equitable for me, but that should give you an inkling of the kind of odds I’m giving him. I’m quite confident.
In any case, Mark believes the court will see Trump as a flight risk and expects him to be remanded into custody pending trial. I hope he’s right about that. Even if Trump is not a flight risk, and I think he’s not, it would be nice to see him behind bars sooner rather than later.
Mark points out that one of the sentences Trump could draw could be worse if the offense involves domestic terrorism. “Making materially false statements is charged under 18 USC 1001,” Mark says, “and carries either a maximum of 5 years imprisonment or 8 [years imprisonment],” depending on whether or not domestic terrorism is involved. The executive summary of the J6 Committee is mute on that point, but they have acknowledged before that the January 6 insurrection does in fact constitute domestic terrorism.
When does Mr. Allenbaugh expect Trump to be indicted? No later than March of 2023. In that we both agree. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.