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Trump’s Trial with Co-Defendants, Georgia Judge Blocks Effort to Combine

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In a recent development, former President Donald Trump and 16 co-defendants will not face trial in October alongside two other defendants in the Georgia election subversion case. Instead, they will proceed on their own schedule, with a trial date yet to be announced, according to Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee’s announcement on Thursday.

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

McAfee’s decision effectively halts Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s attempt to have all 19 defendants tried together in October. A spokesperson for Trump criticized Willis’s motives, calling it a “politically motivated, wrongful attempt to deny President Trump due process of law.”

While McAfee hasn’t set a specific trial date for Trump and his 16 co-defendants, it appears they won’t go to trial before December at the earliest. The judge’s new schedule indicates that he aims to address pretrial disputes with the group of 17 defendants by the end of the year, with discovery starting by October 6.

However, there is no fixed timeline for the trial of the 17 defendants or the resolution of disputes regarding the admissibility of evidence. McAfee has ordered other types of pretrial motions to be filed by December 1, but no hearings have been scheduled for those requests.

The pace set by McAfee also allows federal courts some time to consider the efforts of some defendants to move their prosecutions to federal court.

Trump’s Legal Calendar and the 2024 Election

The Georgia election subversion case is just one of four criminal cases facing the former president. He is also entangled in several civil matters, complicating his legal calendar as the 2024 election cycle heats up.

McAfee’s decision confirms that the Fulton County prosecution against Trump will not go to trial this year, potentially competing with trials set for the first half of the next year in three other criminal cases against Trump.

One of these cases is the federal election subversion case brought against Trump by special counsel Jack Smith in Washington, DC, scheduled for early March. Smith took a more streamlined approach, charging Trump by himself, without any co-defendants.

The trial date for the prosecution by Manhattan prosecutors against Trump for an alleged hush-money scheme during his 2016 campaign appears uncertain, with the judge open to adjusting the start date to accommodate Trump’s complex legal calendar.

Another case alleging Trump mishandled classified documents is set for a trial in a Florida federal court in late May.

Despite these legal challenges, Trump is gearing up for the 2024 presidential race, where he is currently the front-runner for the GOP nomination. He contends that the attempts to bring him to trial in the coming months are politically motivated to interfere with the 2024 election. Prosecutors argue that there are no valid legal reasons to delay the trials until after the 2024 election.

Efforts to Keep the Georgia Case Together

Willis had argued that trying the 19 defendants together on a quick timeline would strain the judicial resources of the Fulton County Superior Court. McAfee’s recent order did not specify whether he is considering further dividing the 17 defendants not being tried in October into smaller groups, though some defendants have suggested this approach.

Prosecutors in Willis’s office pointed out that multiple simultaneous high-profile trials could create security issues and place a heavy burden on witnesses and victims, who might have to testify multiple times on the same facts in the same case.

Additionally, several of the Georgia case defendants face parallel proceedings in federal courts. They seek to transfer the Fulton County prosecutions into federal court, where they can pursue immunity under protections afforded to government agents under certain circumstances.

The outcome of these requests remains uncertain and may have implications for the rest of Willis’s case. Although a federal judge rejected Mark Meadows’ bid to move his case to federal court, the decision is under appeal, and a federal appeals court is set to hear arguments regarding his request for an emergency order to pause state court proceedings.

 

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