News of former president Donald Trump's indictment has been referred to as an "unprecedented" moment in United States history, but the 45th commander-in-chief isn't the first of his status to face arrest.
Trump was indicted Thursday by a New York grand jury on 30 counts of business fraud, becoming the second US president to be criminally charged. The first was Ulysses S. Grant, who was arrested in 1872, just after the end of the Civil War, for speeding in his horse-drawn carriage.
Grant was arrested by William West, a former slave who fought for the Union during the Civil War and afterwards joined the Metropolitan Police. He was one of two Black men on the force at the time, which was only ten years after the department's founding.
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, West was on the lookout for speeding carriages, and initially pulled over Grant without knowing he was the president. He first issued a warning, but then arrested Grant the next day when he caught him speeding again.
"I am very sorry, Mr. President, to have to do it, for you are the chief of the nation and I am nothing but a policeman, but duty is duty, sir, and I will have to place you under arrest," West said at the time.
West remained an officer until his retirement in 1901, and has been deemed a Black Trailblazer in Blue by the National Law Enforcement Museum and the National Black Police Association. The NLEOMF wrote that his actions "made a point to show the president — undoubtedly D.C.’s most influential lawmaking citizen — that no one is above the law, no matter the political power they may possess."
In total, Grant was issued three separate citations for speeding during his presidency. Upon being arrested by West in 1872, he was issued a bond of $20, around $500 in 2023, which he didn't contest. Grant also reportedly respected West's decision to detain him, even saying that he knew he was speeding and deserved to be arrested for it.
Trump, notably, has not thus far respected the legal process.
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