When last we left the Fulton County criminal proceedings against former President Donald Trump and 18 others regarding alleged violations of Georgia’s RICO statutes on the matter of the trial setting, Judge Scott McAfee had declined to sever the cases of former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell and attorney Kenneth Chesebro, both of whom have requested a speedy trial.
However, with a fast-approaching October 23 trial setting, the judge expressed skepticism that prosecutors could realistically be ready to proceed against all 19 defendants in that timeframe. McAfee has now agreed to sever the cases of Chesebro and Powell.
ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia judge ruled Thursday that former President Donald Trump and 16 others will be tried separately from two defendants who are set to go to trial next month in the case accusing them of participating in an illegal scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Lawyers Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro had filed demands for a speedy trial, and Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee set their trial to begin Oct. 23. Trump and other defendants had asked to be tried separately from Powell and Chesebro, with some saying they could not be ready by the late October trial date.
The cases against Powell and Chesebro will proceed to trial on October 23, but the remaining cases will be tried at a later date, with one caveat: The judge indicated that any remaining defendants who opted not to waive the right to a speedy trial will proceed to trial on October 23 alongside Powell and Chesebro.
Judge Scott McAfee said severing the remaining 17 defendants was “a procedural and logistical inevitability,” and did not rule out the possibility that “additional divisions” may be required later.
The judge, however, said that any defendant who does not waive their right to speedy trial before Oct. 23 will “immediately” join the trial. Trump has already waived his speedy trial rights.
His order to sever the remaining cases cited issues regarding due process and the voluminous discovery in the case.
“The precarious ability of the Court to safeguard each defendant’s due process rights and preparation ensure adequate pretrial preparation on the current accelerated track weights heavily, if not decisively, in favor of severance,” his order stated.
Those same issues referenced by the judge make it probable, in my view, that we’ll see further severance of the cases as alluded to in his comments.
While former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and several others sort out the removal issue (Meadows has appealed the district court ruling denying his bid to remove the case to federal court, and Trump has yet to make a final determination as to whether he will attempt to do so), it’s likely that many (perhaps most) of the defendants will join Trump in waiving the right to a speedy trial. But we may still see a handful opt to join Powell and Chesebro and push forward with the cases against them.
Certainly, when trial commences in late October — assuming it does — all eyes will be on the proceedings, and no doubt, the attorneys for Trump and the others will be closely scrutinizing the prosecutors’ presentation of evidence and trial strategy to prepare their own.