Fulton County judge orders separate trials for defendants in Trump election case

16:02 14.09.2023

In a decision that has significant implications for the Georgia election interference case, Fulton County Judge Scott McAfee has granted former President Donald Trump and 16 other defendants a separate trial from two of their co-defendants. The two co-defendants, lawyers Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell, will proceed with their trial beginning on October 23, while a trial date for Trump and the other 16 co-defendants has yet to be set.

The decision comes after Chesebro and Powell invoked their right under Georgia law to seek a speedy trial, citing the high cost of a protracted legal battle. Judge McAfee, in his seven-page order, outlined an expedited trial schedule for the two lawyers, expressing his hope of having a jury seated by November 3 to comply with the speedy trial law.

Describing the upcoming trial as a "mega-trial," Judge McAfee acknowledged the possibility that the 17 defendants might not all be tried together, stating that "additional divisions" may be required once pretrial motions are resolved and a realistic trial date approaches. All 19 defendants were charged in August with state racketeering offenses following an investigation into election interference in Georgia, where Trump lost by a margin of fewer than 12,000 votes.

The issue of the trials' size, shape, and timing remains unresolved, with the Fulton County District Attorney's Office pushing for all 19 defendants to be tried together. However, Judge McAfee noted that some lawyers would need additional time to prepare, and he highlighted the logistical challenges of accommodating all defendants in a single courtroom due to space limitations and security concerns.

The defendants' attempts to move their cases to federal court have further complicated matters. If any one of them succeeds, the entire group could be forced into the federal system. However, the likelihood of a federal judge presiding over a state trial diminished when U.S. District Court Judge Steve C. Jones rejected a removal request from Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff and one of the defendants. Judge Jones is scheduled to hold hearings next week on similar requests from Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official, and three other co-defendants who served as bogus electors on Trump's behalf.

During a hearing on pretrial motions, tensions between the prosecution and defense were evident, with lawyers for Chesebro and Powell accusing the district attorney's office of failing to respond to document requests and engaging in personal attacks. Chesebro's lawyers are seeking to dismiss his case, arguing that he was merely conducting legal research for the Trump campaign. Meanwhile, Powell's lawyer filed a motion to dismiss her case, claiming that access to the county elections system was granted with authorization, negating any claims of data theft or fraud.

The ruling by Judge McAfee has divided the trial into two separate proceedings, setting the stage for a complex legal battle in the Georgia election interference case. The outcome of these trials will have significant implications for the defendants and the ongoing investigation into election interference in Georgia.

/ Thursday, September 14, 2023, 4:02 PM /

themes:  Donald Trump  Georgia

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