Former President Donald Trump and 16 others accused of illegally attempting to overturn the 2020 election results will be tried separately from lawyers Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, according to a ruling by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee. The trial for Powell and Chesebro is set to begin on October 23, while Trump and the other defendants requested separate trials due to unpreparedness for the late October trial date. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis obtained an indictment last month, charging Trump and the 18 others under the state’s anti-racketeering law for their alleged participation in an illegal scheme to deny Joe Biden’s victory. All defendants have pleaded not guilty.
Willis had advocated for a joint trial of all 19 defendants, citing fairness and efficiency. However, Judge McAfee cited the tight timetable and other logistical issues as reasons for separating Trump and 16 others from Powell and Chesebro. McAfee also mentioned the possibility of further dividing the remaining 17 defendants into smaller groups for trial. The decision is likely welcomed by other defendants seeking to distance themselves from Powell, who was vocal in promoting baseless conspiracy theories related to election interference.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, another defendant in the case, has reportedly sought to distance himself from Powell. Trump-aligned lawyer Eric Herschmann has also expressed skepticism towards Powell’s ideas. Chesebro is accused of coordinating and executing a plan to falsely declare Trump as the winner of Georgia, while Powell is accused of participating in a breach of election equipment in Coffee County.
The indictment against Trump and his allies details numerous alleged acts aimed at overturning the election results in Georgia, including pressuring the secretary of state, harassing an election worker, and attempting to persuade Georgia lawmakers to appoint new electors favorable to Trump. McAfee expressed doubt regarding the prosecution’s argument that a joint trial would be more efficient, citing logistical challenges and increased time needed for each additional defendant.
To accommodate Powell and Chesebro’s demand for a speedy trial, Judge McAfee aims to have a jury seated by November 3. However, the ongoing litigation surrounding five defendants seeking to move their cases to federal court raises uncertainty about the potential impact on the state court proceedings. U.S. District Judge Steve Jones recently rejected a similar request by Mark Meadows, Trump’s former White House chief of staff, who is currently appealing the ruling. The other four defendants have hearings scheduled before Jones next week. McAfee denied Meadows’ request to halt the state court proceedings while their efforts to move to federal court are pending.