In a significant development, the judge overseeing the election interference case involving former President Donald Trump and 18 others in Georgia expressed skepticism on Wednesday regarding Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ proposal to proceed with the trial for all 19 defendants, including the former president, next month.
During a hearing in Fulton County Superior Court, Judge Scott McAfee voiced concerns about the practicality of the DA’s plan, considering the complex legal and logistical challenges presented by the sprawling case. However, he indicated that he would consider additional arguments.
Nathan Wade, representing the DA’s office, informed the judge that a trial involving all 19 defendants could span approximately four months and involve up to 150 witnesses.
Willis initially suggested a trial date in March but expedited the timeline after former Trump lawyers Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell requested a speedy trial. Judge McAfee granted this request for at least those two defendants.
“We’re certainly here, ready and willing to provide both defendants that right, and we’re planning to make that Oct. 23 trial date stick,” McAfee stated. He added that he would rule on the remaining defendants after reviewing Willis’ arguments.
However, Powell and Chesebro did not secure a complete victory, as Judge McAfee denied their request to sever their cases from one another. Their attorneys had argued that this was necessary because, despite both facing racketeering charges, they were involved in separate schemes.
Both Powell and Chesebro have entered not guilty pleas, along with Trump and the other defendants.
The extensive 41-count indictment accuses all 19 individuals of violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act. Willis alleges that the defendants engaged in schemes to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in Georgia and unlawfully declare Trump as the election winner.
Powell, known for her role on Trump’s legal team after the election, faces charges including racketeering, conspiracy to commit election fraud, conspiracy to commit computer theft, trespass, invasion of privacy, and conspiracy to defraud the state. The computer theft charge is related to an alleged attempt to access voting machines in rural Coffee County.
Chesebro, who helped develop the legal theory behind the “fake electors” scheme, recently pleaded not guilty to racketeering and conspiracy charges. He has argued that he only provided legal advice and did not engage in unlawful activities.
Furthermore, Chesebro’s attorneys filed a motion calling for the dismissal of the RICO indictment, citing the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution. They argued that most of the conduct he is charged with occurred after the “safe harbor” date for states to certify election results, falling under federal jurisdiction rather than Georgia law.
In a separate development, Willis filed a motion requesting that jurors’ names and likenesses be kept confidential during any upcoming trial. She argued that doxing of grand jurors in Fulton County had occurred, posing a threat to the jurors’ impartiality and safety. The indictment lists the grand jurors’ names but not their personal information.