In a recent development, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee issued an order separating the cases of Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell from former President Donald Trump and the 16 other co-defendants. Judge McAfee stated that separating the remaining 17 co-defendants was a “procedural and logistical inevitability.” He justified the statement by explaining that the number of attorneys involved and potential scheduling conflicts alone would demand that they ultimately be separated.
He further emphasized that while Chesebro’s and Powell’s cases will remain linked, there will be no halt in state proceedings even as some cases are being transferred to federal court.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is leading the prosecution, had consistently requested that all 19 defendants be tried together. She had previously contended that this was appropriate since their cases had not been officially separated. In a prior hearing, the DA’s office estimated that the trial would span four months, excluding jury selection, and involve testimony from 150 prosecution witnesses. They had also proposed to commence the trial on October 23.
However, Judge McAfee expressed doubts, suggesting that the trial might take even longer than the prosecution’s estimate, especially considering the number of witnesses. The situation is further complicated by several defendants seeking to move their cases to federal court and wanting their cases to be separated. The judge highlighted that any federal decision or appeal could potentially delay or nullify a state ruling.
The prosecution’s stance is that since this is a racketeering case, the entire case would be presented every time a defendant is tried. If the judge were to separate the October 23 trial for the two defendants from the rest, the prosecution would have to present their full case with all 150 witnesses twice, which seems to be the likely scenario unless the prosecution decides to change its approach.
In his September 14 order, Judge McAfee noted that trying the case multiple times separately would still be more feasible than a single trial with all 19 defendants. This is due to the varying schedules of the defendants and their attorneys. He stressed the importance of considering the broader impact of a prolonged, multi-defendant trial on the local criminal justice system.
No trial date has been set for the remaining 16 defendants. Some claim they have never met other defendants listed in the same indictment and argue against being accused of participating in the same alleged scheme.
DA Willis has argued that the actions of the 19 defendants to challenge the Georgia 2020 election results amount to a conspiracy. They have all been charged under the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
Willis had previously suggested a trial date of March 4, 2024. However, President Trump is already set to begin a trial in federal court concerning his actions on January 6, 2021. This case accuses him of conspiring to defraud citizens of their votes by requesting Vice President Mike Pence to halt the vote certification process.
Kenneth Chesebro had previously demanded a speedy trial, leading to DA Willis proposing the October 23 trial date for all defendants. Following this, President Trump sought to separate his case. The defense and prosecution have had disagreements over the trial timeline. Sidney Powell also later requested a speedy trial and sought to separate her case from Chesebro’s. However, the judge decided to keep their cases together and set the October 23 trial date for both.
In recent events, President Trump chose to forgo his right to a speedy trial in exchange for case separation. The judge’s latest order clarifies how the defendants will be tried.