Fulton County Judge Orders Separate Trials for Trump RICO Case Defendants
Fulton County Judge Scott McAfee made a significant ruling on Thursday, granting the separation of trials for 17 of the
Fulton County Judge Scott McAfee made a significant ruling on Thursday, granting the separation of trials for 17 of the 19 defendants, including former President Donald Trump, involved in the election interference case. The trial for lawyers Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell, two of the defendants, is set to commence on October 23. McAfee dismissed their request for separate trials, citing logistical constraints and the trial’s expected duration.
McAfee clarified that his decision is rooted in practicality, asserting, “Beginning with the logistical concerns, the Fulton County Courthouse simply contains no courtroom adequately large enough to hold all 19 defendants, their multiple attorneys and support staff, the sheriff’s deputies, court personnel, and the State’s prosecutorial team.” He emphasized that relocating to a larger venue would pose security risks that cannot be promptly addressed.
The projected length of the trial, estimated to be four months with over 150 witnesses, also factored into the decision. McAfee expressed concerns about the trial’s impact on the local criminal justice system, potentially sidelining numerous defense counsel and hindering the court’s ability to manage its docket.
While the other 17 defendants have not yet exercised their right to a speedy trial, Judge McAfee suggested that further separations may become necessary, stating that “Additional divisions of these 17 defendants may well be required.”
Acknowledging the challenges faced by another major RICO case, the Young Slime Life (YSL) trial, which has grappled with prolonged jury selection, McAfee pledged to have a jury selected and sworn in the trial of Chesebro and Powell by November 3, 2023.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis had advocated for trying all 19 defendants together, contending that it was feasible to do so and emphasizing the strain that multiple lengthy trials would place on the judicial resources of the Fulton County Superior Court.
In addition to the separation ruling, McAfee also denied requests from former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former Justice Department official Jeff Clark, and defendants David Shafer and Shawn Still to halt proceedings in Fulton County while their motions to move the case to a federal venue are pending. As a result, they must adhere to the existing deadlines in Fulton County Court.