Prosecutors in Georgia are pushing for all 19 defendants, including former President Donald Trump, to be tried together in the legal case alleging their involvement in a scheme to overturn the 2020 election results. In a filing made on Tuesday, prosecutors cited the efficiency and fairness of trying the defendants together under the state’s anti-racketeering law. They emphasized that using the same witnesses and evidence in one trial would avoid overburdening the county superior court and prevent defendants tried later from gaining an advantage by accessing the state’s evidence and arguments beforehand.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who announced the charges last month, has maintained her intention to try all 19 defendants simultaneously. However, two of the defendants, Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell, have filed speedy trial demands. Despite their request to be tried separately from each other, the presiding judge, Scott McAfee, denied their motion. Chesebro is accused of playing a role in coordinating and executing a plan involving 16 Georgia Republicans who falsely declared Trump as the winner and themselves as the state’s rightfully elected electors. Powell, on the other hand, faces allegations of participating in an election equipment breach in rural Coffee County.
The trial for Chesebro and Powell is currently scheduled for October 23rd. However, Judge McAfee expressed skepticism about the feasibility of trying all 19 defendants within that timeframe and asked Willis’ team to provide a brief explaining their reasons for seeking a joint trial.
Defendants’ Speedy Trial Demands Under Consideration
Most of the defendants in a high-profile case have filed motions to be tried alone or in smaller groups. However, prosecutors have pointed out that these defendants have not waived their rights to file their own speedy trial demands. The deadline for the demands is set for Nov. 5. If any demands are filed, it would trigger one or more trials within the next two months, while the trial for Chesebro and Powell is still ongoing. This could potentially result in multiple trials happening simultaneously, posing security issues and causing burdens on witnesses and victims, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors argue that requiring defendants to waive their speedy trial right as a condition for their cases to be separated would prevent the aforementioned logistical challenges, protect victims and witnesses from harm, and minimize the risk of gamesmanship. Furthermore, they contend that defendants requesting separate trials because they won’t be ready by Oct. 23 should inform the court of their anticipated readiness for trial.
Attempts to Move Cases to Federal Court
Five of the defendants are seeking to move their cases to federal court, and lawyers for Trump have indicated that he may also pursue the same course of action. McAfee expressed concern last week about proceeding with the state court trial while these attempts are still underway. He cited a federal law that allows federal officials to move state charges to federal court under certain circumstances, stating that “a judgment of conviction shall not be entered” until the case is sent back to state court. However, prosecutors argue that this law explicitly permits a case to continue in a state court while the question of moving it to federal court is pending.
Federal Judge Steve Jones recently rejected the attempt by Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to move his case to federal court, instructing it to return to state court. Meadows has appealed this ruling. The other four defendants who have filed notices to move their cases also have upcoming hearings before Jones scheduled for next week.