"Commit a crime for me and I'll pay the legal bills" - legal?

Recently at a rally, Donald Trump told the crowd

Apparently, he is now considering making good on that promise, after a supporter attacked a protester. This case raised the question in my mind, is it typically legal in the US to specifically request someone to commit a crime and offer to help pay their legal fees if they do? IANAL, but this seems like something that could fall under conspiracy or make one an accomplice to the crime. Given that I’ve not heard anything about Trump getting in trouble for it, it seems that it might be legal though. Legal-minded Dopers, what do you think?

Even without the offer to pay the legal fees, the invitation to “knock the crap out of them” looks like incitement or conspiracy, doesn’t it? The offer to pay legal costs just underlines that this is a serious request.

Imminent lawless action … proven beyond a reasonable doubt … I don’t see it, it’s a high bar legally and in a political context … it should be higher still.

The attacker goes to jail, certainly … but charging The Donald is out of the question … it’s political rhetoric.

Can you expound on what you mean and why you “don’t see it?” Are you a lawyer?

Not to drag this into GD, but Trump doesn’t have to be convicted anyway, simply being indicted might be a big deal in this context.

I don’t think you even need the promise to pay part. If a person suggests you hit someone as a favor to them, then it seems pretty clear cut to me. If victim presses charges, Trump should be indicted.

I’d think the more interesting set of questions would be,
ASSUMING that it is a crime…

  1. Should Trump be charged?
  2. If so, when?
  3. If he is charged - what would it do to the election?

Read Richard Parker’s link. If you urge someone to do an illegal act, that could be solicitation or incitement. But if you urge someone to do a legal act, such as, “If you see someone trying to tear down the signs, physically pull him away”, that would probably be ok.

The force has to be proportional though. “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you?”, sounds like it could be problematic depending upon the circumstances.

IANAL. The author in the link, Eugene Volokh, is a law professor. But you should read him rather than my paraphrase.
ETA: I opine that bengangmo poses some good questions, but they are more suitable for GD.

Would it be aiding and abetting a crime? I know that offering somebody financial support so they can commit a crime would count. But offering to cover somebody’s legal expenses might be a gray area.

The problem is that if you’re offering to pay the legal bills that result from the act, then you’re implicitly acknowledging the act is probably illegal.

This. As events have unfolded, a Trump supporter has hit someone in circumstances where this is probably a criminal assault, and Trump is (reportedly) paying his legal defence costs, indicating that Trump, at any rate, considers that this kind of action is precisely the kind of action that he called for, and promised to underwrite financially.

Something similar happened last year with the whole Confederate flag at the Carolina courthouse incident. A few celebrities (including Michael Moore) offered to pay the legal bills for anyone who tore it down despite it being guarded by police. After someone actually tore it down and was arrested some in the right-wing media began to say Moore should be charged with Inciting a Riot/Disturbing the Peace but as far as I know nothing was done to anyone.

Forgive me for the drive-by link. I was posting from my phone last night.

Volokh is one of the country’s foremost experts on free speech issues. That post is pretty much the black-letter law on the subject of what constitutes incitement and solicitation in this context.

He doesn’t address directly the payment of legal bills, but I think you have to understand the rest of the relevant framework in order to understand that distinct issue. I think Little Nemo makes a good argument about the import of offering to pay the bills, but it is ultimately not correct. Trump could correctly believe that the person who punches a protestor in any circumstance is likely to be arrested and therefore incur some legal costs, even if he also believed in good faith that the act was legally justified.

Right, the existence of legal bills means that there’s some question as to the act’s legality, not that it’s definitely illegal. The perpetrator could go to court and be found not guilty, but would still need to pay his lawyers in that case.

Such as if you had reason to believe it was an IET (Improvised Explosive Tomato).

“Knock the crap out of them” is probably too vague to constitute an incitement to exercise an unlawful level of force.

I see this as a million times more likely to result in civil liability for Trump than criminal culpability.

Trump’s position presumably would be that he was only asking his supporters to defend him from imminent assault, as shown from the condition “if you see someone about to throw something.” It can, of course, be legal to use force in defense of others, but the circumstances may indeed require a legal proceeding to determine fault or guilt. A tomato may not be enough to provoke the use of force, but the throwing of biohazards at protests is not unheard of, and it may not be immediately apparent to a bystander just what it is that a protestor intends to throw.

As for offering to pay the legal bills, corporations insure their officers and directors for various types of civil legal bills all the time. Not sure about criminal charges.

Fairly common for criminal charges, too. Though IIRC there is an SEC rule that requires officers/directors of security-issuing-entities to reimburse the corporation for their legal bills if they are found to have violated their fiduciary duties.

“Hide from the US immigration services. If you’re caught, we’ll defend you.”

An offer posted by the NYC government itself on subway cars. I can’t find the post where I show the cites/photos.

An offer advertised by any number of lawyers themselves?

He could end up getting more votes . CRAP! His supporters eat his shit up like candy !