Fulton County Judge Skeptical of October Trial Date for Trump RICO Case - but It's Still Set for Now

Arvin Temkar/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, Pool

On Wednesday, Fulton County Judge Scott McAfee heard from lawyers for former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro — both co-defendants, along with former President Donald Trump and 16 others in the Georgia RICO case brought by District Attorney Fani Willis alleging a criminal conspiracy arising out of the 2020 presidential election — on motions to sever their cases (i.e., try them separately). 

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The judge denied the motions to sever but expressed skepticism that prosecutors could reasonably expect to have the case ready to proceed against all 19 defendants on October 23, which is the current trial setting. 

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee said he was "very skeptical" of Willis' plan to try all 19 co-defendants together, but told prosecutors, "I'm willing to hear what you have to say on it."

Forgive me for injecting a lawyerly observation into things here for a moment, but the notion that Willis' office will proceed with a 19-defendant complex criminal case — one which they advised Judge McAfee at Wednesday's hearing they anticipate will take four months to try and involve over 150 witnesses — seven weeks from now is lunacy. I may wind up eating crow on this, and if I do, I'll own it, but I'm going to go out on a limb and predict zero of the defendants will be going to trial in October. There are still removal (to federal court) issues to be sorted out (for Trump's former Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, and several others), and most of the defendants are going to object to (and maneuver around) such a quick trial date. If the judge is set on the cases being tried as one, it will likely be well into 2024 before the case is ever tried. 

Lawyers for Powell and Chesebro contended their cases should be severed as the allegations as to each of them only involved a portion of the conduct set forth in the indictment.

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Chesebro's attorney Scott Grubman argued that trying Chesebro with the other defendants would be unfair, since Chesebro only engaged in a portion of the conduct alleged in the indictment. Grubman argued that the Fulton County case boils down to three distinct conspiracies: one related to the alternate elector scheme, a second related to tampering with ballot computers in Coffee County, and a third related to the effort to intimate poll worker Ruby Freeman.

"Mr. Chesebro is only concerned in terms of the evidence or allegations with what I'm going to call the alternate elector alleged conspiracy," Grubman said.

...

"Why should Mr. Chesebro have to deal with a jury who's going to sit there for weeks, if not months, and listen to all of this evidence related to Coffee County and Miss Powell? He's never been there. He's never met Miss Powell. He's never emailed or called her," Grubman said.

But prosecutors pushed back, arguing that they would need to include all the witnesses and evidence as to each defendant in order to prove the conspiracy. Thus, trying the defendants together would best serve the interests of judicial economy. In other words, better to hold one circus four-month-plus, multi-witness trial than 19.

So the judge, for now, is coming down on the side of judicial economy (and likely strategically holding the parties' feet to the fire with the quick trial setting — nothing moves a case along and prompts lawyers to quit dragging their feet like a looming trial setting). 

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As stated above, my money's still on none of the cases proceeding to trial in October, but we'll know for sure in seven weeks, if not sooner. RedState will, of course, continue to provide updates as they become available. 

For some of our prior coverage on this case, see: 

BREAKING: Donald Trump, Mark Meadows, John Eastman, Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis Indicted in Fulton County

BREAKING: Controversial Terms of Release Set for Donald Trump in Georgia

Here It Is: The Trump Mugshot Democrats Have Been Praying For

NEW: Mark Meadows Loses Bid to Stay GA Arrest Pending Decision on Removal to Federal Court

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