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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
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Georgia prosecutors seek August trial date in election subversion case

Trump opposes the proposed trial date, and proceedings would likely run past Election Day and into 2025.

ATLANTA (CN) — Prosecutors filed a motion Friday requesting a Aug. 5, 2024, trial date for the election subversion case against former President Donald Trump and multiple other defendants in Georgia.

In the filing, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said the proposed trial date “balances potential delays from defendant Trump’s other criminal trials in sister sovereigns and the other defendants’ constitutional speedy trial rights.”

In early March, Trump is scheduled to appear in Washington in a trial on federal election subversion charges, which will likely have implications on the Georgia case as many of the same witnesses are expected to be called.

The former president is also expected to appear at a Manhattan court later in the month for charges related to hush money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels. And his case involving mishandling of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida is currently set to begin in May, although the judge has indicated that timeline could be delayed.

If the date is approved by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, the trial in the sprawling racketeering case against Trump and 14 others would begin just three weeks after the Republican Party chooses its presidential nominee at its convention in Milwaukee. It would also kick off nearly a year after Willis first brought the indictment, which says the defendants "knowingly and willfully joined a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favor of Trump."

Since Trump announced his third run for the presidency last year, he has dominated as the Republican favorite over other potential Republican candidates across polls.

Trump's top Atlanta attorney, Steve Sadow, said in a response to the motion that his client opposes the proposed trial date. He said he will ask the judge for “the opportunity to present oral argument in opposition to the motion at a hearing to be held at a time convenient to the court.”

In the motion, prosecutors set a final plea hearing date of June 21, after which they will no longer entertain negotiated plea deals from defendants, although they will have the option of non-negotiated pleas. They added that they intend to recommend maximum sentences at any remaining sentencing hearings.

While prosecutors don't want the case split into multiple different trials, they asked that the judge consider any severances before that date as well. They wrote that granting separate proceedings "would impair both the efficiency and the fairness" of the criminal justice system.

"The RICO conspiracy charge ensures any trial would share the same evidence and witnesses," Willis wrote in the motion.

"In a case where the same witnesses, the same evidence, and the same charges would be used against all defendants — thus affecting judicial economy in the use of physical facilities and the time of witnesses, jurors, and court personnel — the trial court must consider these efficiencies against the possible conflicting interests of joint or multiple defendants."

So far, four of the original 19 defendants have accepted negotiated plea deals that require them to testify truthfully as the case proceeds.

During an interview at The Washington Post Live’s Global Women’s Summit event this week, Willis said she believes the trial will take “many months" and her office has previously said they intend to call 150 witnesses to the stand.

“I don’t expect that we will conclude until the winter or the very early part of 2025,” she estimated, adding any verdict would likely be appealed.

Jury selection is also expected to take months, as seen in a separate high-profile racketeering case also brought by Willis' team against hip-hop artist Young Thug. In that case, the process took a grueling 10 months.

Willis also told The Washington Post that when making decisions about cases to bring, she does not "consider any election cycle or an election season."

“That does not go into the calculus," she said. "What goes into the calculus is: This is the law. These are the facts. And if the facts show you violated the law, then charges are brought."

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Categories / Courts, Criminal, Politics

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