Georgia judge halts DA’s attempt to try Trump and co-defendants together

By | September 14, 2023

Former President Donald Trump, along with 16 co-defendants, will not go to court in October with two other defendants in the Georgia election subversion case, but will go forward on their own schedule, with a trial date yet to be announced, Superior Court of Fulton County Judge Scott McAfee announced Thursday.

The two remaining co-defendants, Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell, have asked for a speedy trial and is scheduled to begin in October.

McAfee’s order blocks Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ attempt to have all 19 defendants tried together in October.

“Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ unlawful and politically motivated attempt to deny President Trump due process of law by arguing that no benefits should be awarded has been summarily quashed by the court,” a Trump spokesperson said. “Willis’ unfair rush to judgment to please his radical political base has simply backfired.”

While McAfee has not set a trial date for Trump and 16 of his co-defendants, the timeline set out in a court order Thursday means they will not go to trial until at least December.

The new timetable set by the judge signals that he wants to begin resolving preliminary disputes with the group of 17 defendants by the end of the year. The judge orders the investigation to begin by October 6.

However, there is still no set timeline for the trial of the 17 defendants, nor is there one to resolve disputes over what evidence can be presented to the jury. McAfee has ordered other types of pretrial motions to be filed by Dec. 1, but has not scheduled a hearing on those motions.

At the pace set by McAfee, federal courts will have some time to address some defendants’ efforts to move their cases to federal court.

The potential case will compete with Trump’s already busy 2024 trial schedule

The election subversion case in Georgia is one of four criminal cases against the former president, who is also embroiled in several civil matters that are also clogging up his legal calendar as the 2024 election cycle heats up.

McAfee’s order confirms that the Fulton County case against Trump will not go to trial this year and presents the possibility that it could compete with trials set for the first half of next year in the other three criminal cases against Trump.

One such case is the federal election subversion case that Special Prosecutor Jack Smith filed against Trump in Washington, D.C., which is currently set to go to trial in early March. Smith took a more streamlined approach than Willis against Trump and charged him alone, without co-defendants.

The date for Trump’s trial by Manhattan prosecutors over an alleged money-hiding scheme in his 2016 campaign appears to be in flux. Also initially scheduled for March 2024, the judge in that case signaled this week that he was open to moving the start date to fit Trump’s increasingly complicated legal calendar.

The special counsel’s case that Trump mishandled classified documents is scheduled for a trial starting in a Florida federal court in late May.

As he juggles these various criminal cases – as well as the New York attorney general’s civil fraud case against his company and family that goes to trial in October, as well as defamation proceedings related to his slander against a woman who accused him of sexual assault – Trump is preparing for the 2024 presidential race, where he will be the favorite for the Republican nomination.

He argued that prosecutors’ attempt to bring him to trial in the coming months is a politically motivated effort to meddle in the 2024 election. They countered that the public has its own interest in seeing him and his criminal co-defendants tried quickly, and there are no legitimate legal reasons to push trials in his cases until after the 2024 election.

Effort to keep Georgia’s sprawling case together

In arguing that the 19 defendants in his case should be tried together expeditiously, Willis had argued that splitting the case “into multiple lengthy trials would create an enormous strain on the judicial resources of the Fulton County Superior Court.”

McAfee’s new order doesn’t indicate whether he’s considering further dividing the 17 defendants not tried in October into smaller groups, but it’s a proposal some of the defendants are already floating.

“Three or more simultaneous high-profile trials would create a variety of safety concerns and create unavoidable burdens on witnesses and victims, who would be forced to testify three or more times about the same set of facts in the same case,” prosecutors said. in Willis’ office, he said in a document this week.

Additionally, many of the defendants in the Georgia case have parallel proceedings pending in federal courts. Those defendants — including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and three defendants allegedly involved in the fake voter scheme — are seeking to move Fulton County court cases against them in federal court, where we will seek immunity under protections extended to U.S. government agents under certain circumstances.

If any of those requests are successful, it’s not yet clear what that would mean for the rest of Willis’ case.

A federal judge rejected Meadows’ bid to move the case to federal court, but the ruling is on appeal, and a federal appeals court will hear arguments Friday on the former White House counselor’s request for an emergency order that would suspend state court proceedings. in his case.

This story has been updated with additional information.

CNN’s Kristen Holmes contributed to this report.

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