Donald Trump became the first former US president to be convicted of a crime after a New York jury found him guilty on all charges in his hush-money case, just months before an election that could see him return to the White House. The jury found him guilty on all 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up a payment made to silence porn star Stormy Daniels. Although he could theoretically be sentenced to four years in prison for each count, he is more likely to receive probation.

The 77-year-old Republican, released without bail, now holds the unprecedented status of being a felon—a shocking milestone in a nation where presidents are often regarded as the most powerful individuals in the world.

The courtroom fell silent on Thursday as Judge Juan Merchan read the jury’s handwritten note aloud. Juan later handed Trump’s conviction on all 34 counts.

Who is Juan Merchan?

Judge Juan Merchan, born in Bogotá, Colombia, and an immigrant to the US at age six, grew up in Queens, New York City. He was the first in his family to attend college and began working at nine, juggling various jobs, such as hotel night manager, during his studies, according to the New York Times.

Merchan’s career includes high-profile cases like the prosecution of “soccer-mom madam” Anna Gristina. He also presides over Manhattan’s mental health court, where defendants agree to closely monitored treatment aiming for case dismissal, future legal avoidance, and personal stability, as reported by the Associated Press.

Despite the unprecedented nature of the Trump case, legal experts have commended Merchan’s management, emphasizing his ability to maintain normalcy in the courtroom. Shira Scheindlin, a former Manhattan federal court judge, praised Merchan’s impartiality and experience, noting the challenge of presiding over a trial involving a former president and his entourage.

“It’s high-profile and a bit more stressful, especially with a former president and his associates in the courtroom,” Scheindlin said. “But it’s not an impossible position. Judge Merchan is a very experienced judge who has been effectively managing his courtroom for 18 years.”

Ron Kuby, a veteran defense attorney, highlighted Merchan’s efforts to avoid distractions and maintain courtroom decorum. “Judge Merchan handled the trial in the fairest, most efficient, and least dramatic way possible,” Kuby said. “He has always been a careful and thoughtful jurist, and in the Trump case, he thoroughly considered legal issues and provided detailed opinions explaining his reasoning.”

The extraordinary circumstances of Trump’s trial were further complicated by the ex-president’s behavior. Trump’s repeated attacks on trial witnesses led Merchan to impose a gag order to maintain order in the proceedings.