- Among the four charges Donald Trump pleaded not guilty to Thursday was conspiracy against rights.
- The civil war-era statute was originally passed to stop members of the KKK from terrorizing the formerly enslaved.
- Trump was indicted on four counts in connection to the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot.
Former president Donald Trump pleaded guilty Thursday to four charges in connection to the January 6, 2021, Capitol Riot and efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Among the four counts a federal grand jury led by Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith charged Trump with, conspiracy against rights was the most suprising, legal experts previously told Insider.
The conspiracy against rights statute prohibits “two or more persons” from conspiring “to injure, threaten, or intimidate a person in any state, territory, or district in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him or her by the Constitution or the laws of the US,” according to the Department of Justice.
In this case, it’s the right to vote that prosecutors allege Trump threatened by trying to tamper with the 2020 election results in battleground states.
“It was part of the target letter,” but “it’s rarely charged,” Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor in California told Insider of Trump’s charge.
The “civil war era statute was used to prosecute folks in the South trying to disenfranchise Black voters,” Rahmani added.
At the time it was passed, the US Senate’s website notes, “forces in some states were at work” to “deny Black citizens their legal rights. Members of the Ku Klux Klan, for example, terrorized Black citizens for exercising their right to vote, running for public office, and serving on juries.”
If convicted of this charge, Trump could face a fine or prison time of up to 10 years, Rahmani said.
Rahmani added that while the charge was less expected compared to the others, “Trump was allegedly conspiring to prevent peoples’ lawful votes from being counted with the fake elector scheme.”
“That’s why it makes sense,” because “what he did fits within the four corners of the statue,” Rahmani said.
Trump has repeatedly denied wrongdoing in addition to pleading not guilty. He said the Department of Justice’s investigation is politically motivated.