Local defense attorney explains what pleading the Fifth means

CBS Pittsburgh
CBS Pittsburgh

Local defense attorney explains what pleading the Fifth means 03:02

GREENSBURG, Pa. (KDKA) - Former President Donald Trump said he refused to answer questions from investigators with the New York Attorney General's office on Wednesday, citing his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination related to the years-long civil fraud probe into his businesses.

Noted local defense attorney Tim Dawson said a common misconception about the Fifth Amendment is that it's a way to cover yourself if you're guilty. But the founding fathers put it into the Constitution to protect Americans from the government potentially twisting a person's words against them in civil and criminal proceedings.

Former President Donald Trump walked out of his deposition regarding questions over the former chief executive's property valuations on loan applications and tax issues. However, the president said he pleaded the Fifth to every question asked by the New York attorney general's staff.

"If you are in a situation where innocent or guilty, and you make statements that might be deemed incriminating, you have the right not to testify against yourself," Dawson said.

Dawson, a veteran defense attorney, said the former president keeping his mouth shut was a sound legal move.

"It's the right move because anyone questioning you isn't there to help you. They're there to build a case against you," Dawson said.

But for one man KDKA's Ross Guidotti spoke to, he said Trump invoking the Fifth Amendment is ironic.

"What I recall back in 2015 and 2016, he said if you plead the Fifth, that means you did," said William Bechtold from Greensburg. "It's kinda curious he pleads the Fifth on everything."

Jessica Skacel, a cattle farmer from Dairy said the former president deserves no special treatment, he deserves equal protection under the law as any other citizen would.

"He was a great president, he did a lot for us," she said.

Dawson said the former president pleading the Fifth also prevents other prosecutors, federal and state, from harvesting testimony for any and all cases against him.

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