Former President Donald Trump and most of the other 19 defendants indicted in Fulton County, Georgia, for trying to overturn the 2020 election will not have their cases go to trial next month, as the judge overseeing the case ruled Thursday to split the defendants’ trials up, rather than try them together starting in October.
Attorneys Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell will go to trial starting October 23, after the lawyers filed requests with the court for a speedy trial, but District Attorney Fani Willis had argued the other 17 defendants indicted in the case should join them and all should be tried together in October.
The other defendants, including Trump and attorney Rudy Giuliani, have opposed that request and asked for their cases to be split up from Chesebro and Powell and to be tried later than October.
Georgia Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who’s overseeing all the cases, denied the DA’s request Thursday, ruling while Chesebro and Powell must be tried together—they had requested their cases also be split up—it was an “absolute necessity” to sever the other 17 defendants from the two attorneys’ trial.
McAfee said trying all the defendants together would present a number of logistical issues, including drawing out the jury selection process and making the trial even longer, and noted there’s “no courtroom [in Fulton County] adequately large enough to hold all 19 defendants, their multiple attorneys and support staff, the sheriff’s deputies, court personnel, and the State’s prosecutorial team.”
Five defendants are also trying to move their cases to federal court, and McAfee noted that if a federal court were to grant that request while the trial in state court was going on in October, it would impact the case and could lead to “automatic acquittal.”
The judge also ruled the cases against the defendants who are trying to move their cases to federal court—including former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows—will still keep moving forward while the federal courts deliberate on whether the cases should be moved, denying the defendants’ requests to pause the proceedings until the issue is resolved.
What We Don’t Know
When the other 17 defendants will go to trial, as no trial date has yet been set for Trump or any of the other people indicted besides Powell and Chesebro. McAfee noted in his ruling Thursday that he could order more cases to be severed from each other, meaning it’s still hard to say how many trials will take place as part of the case in total. The DA’s office has previously said it expects any trials in the case to take four months, as the state plans to call at least 150 witnesses, regardless of how many defendants are being tried.
Fulton County DA Fani Willis’ office indicted the 19 defendants in August on 41 counts, alleging they are part of a criminal conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election. The indictment alleges Trump and his allies constituted a “criminal enterprise” that conspired to unlawfully overturn the election results, claiming the defendants “knowingly and willfully joined a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favor of Trump.” The alleged conspiracy included a number of efforts, including pressuring state legislators and officials and attempting to block Congress from certifying the results. All defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them. Chesebro was indicted for his alleged role in what’s known as the “fake electors” scheme, in which the Trump administration orchestrated a plan for GOP officials to submit false slates of electors to Congress falsely claiming Trump won their states, while Powell was indicted for allegedly helping to breach election equipment in Coffee County, Georgia. Both have filed motions seeking to have their cases dismissed.