Georgia judge shuts down DA's effort to try Trump and co-defendants together

Georgia judge shuts down DA’s effort to try Trump and co-defendants together


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

The two remaining co-defendants, Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell, sought speedy trials and are scheduled to begin in October.

McAfee’s order shuts down the effort by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to have all 19 defendants tried together in October.

“Fulton County DA Fani Willis’ politically motivated, wrongful attempt to deny President Trump due process of law by arguing that no severances should be granted has been summarily squashed by the court,” a spokesperson for Trump said. “Willis’ unjust rush to judgment in order to please her radical political base has simply failed.”

While McAfee didn’t set a trial date for Trump and 16 of his co-defendants, the timeline he sets out in a court order Thursday means they wouldn’t go on trial before at least December.

The new schedule laid out by the judge signals he wants to start hashing out pretrial disputes with the batch of 17 defendants by the end of the year. The judge is ordering discovery to start by October 6.

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

At the pace McAfee laid out, federal courts will have some time to address the efforts by some defendants in the case to move their prosecutions to federal court.

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

McAfee’s order cements that the Fulton County prosecution against Trump won’t go to trial this year, and it presents the possibility that it could be competing against the trials set for the first half of next year in the three other criminal cases against Trump.

One of those cases is the federal election subversion case that special counsel Jack Smith has brought against Trump in Washington, DC, that is currently to go to trial in early March. Smith took more streamlined approach than Willis against Trump, and charged him by himself, without any co-defendants.

The trial date for the prosecution by Manhattan prosecutors of Trump for an alleged hush-money scheme in his 2016 campaign appears to be in flux. Initially scheduled for March 2024 as well, the judge in that case signaled this week he was open to moving the start date to accommodate Trump’s increasingly complicated legal calendar.

The special counsel case alleging Trump mishandled classified documents is slated for a trial that begins in a Florida federal court in late May.

While he is juggling these various criminal cases – as well as the New York attorney general’s civil fraud case against his business and family going to trial in October, as well as the defamation proceedings related to his smears of a woman who accused him of sexual assault – Trump is ramping up for the 2024 presidential race, where he is the front-runner for the GOP nomination.

He has 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 have countered that the public has its own interest in seeing him and his criminal codefendants tried swiftly, and there are no legitimate legal reasons for pushing the trials in his cases until after the 2024 election.

In arguing that the 19 defendants in her case should be tried together on a quick timeline, Willis had argued that breaking up the case “to multiple lengthy trials would create an enormous strain on the judicial resources of the Fulton County Superior Court.”

McAfee’s new order did not indicate whether he is considering further breaking out the 17 defendants not being tried in October into smaller groups, but it is a proposal that some of the defendants are already floating.

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

Additionally, several of the Georgia case defendants have parallel proceedings in federal courts underway. Those defendants – which include former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and three defendants alleged to have been involved in the fake electors scheme – are seeking to move the Fulton County prosecutions against them into federal court, where they’ll seek immunity under protections extended to agents of the US government in certain circumstances.

If any of those requests are successful, it is still unclear what that would mean for the rest of Willis’ case.

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

This story has been updated with additional information.

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