The goal of trying all 19 defendants in the Georgia election interference case faces a key test Wednesday at a newly scheduled hearing that will consider separation requests from two attorneys aligned with former President Trump.
The last of the 19 defendants entered a plea of not guilty Tuesday and waived their in-person arraignment that was previously expected to be held Wednesday morning over the course of six hours in which each defendant, including Trump, would have entered their plea in-person in a courtroom in 15-minute increments.
Instead, the main event Wednesday will begin at 1 p.m. ET, when a judge is expected to hold a hearing in which attorneys Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell are requesting their cases be severed from each other and the rest of those charged in the case. The hearing, before Fulton County Superior Judge Scott McAfee, is expected to be livestreamed.
The Chesebro, Powell hearing stands to put to the test Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s (D) goal to try all 19 co-defendants, each facing racketeering and other charges, together in the Georgia election interference case.
Both Chesebro and Powell are seeking a speedy trial, likely allowing them to be tried this fall. Chesebro’s trial has been set to begin Oct. 23, but the judge has not yet set a date for any of the others.
Willis is hoping to keep the co-defendants together by trying them all on the same advanced timeline, but she faces stiff opposition.
McAfee on Wednesday will weigh whether to keep Willis’s goal alive or side with Chesebro and Powell, who have each made clear they want to be tried alone, largely because the acts they are accused of don’t overlap.
“Ms. Powell can receive a fair trial only if she is tried alone,” her attorney, Brian Rafferty, wrote in court filings. “The prejudice that would inure to her from a lengthy trial with any of those she was not involved and about the vast number of events she had no knowledge of or connection with would deny her Due Process.”
Chesebro’s attorneys, Scott Grubman and Manubir Arora, similarly argued that much of the indictment is unrelated to their client.
“If the jury were to be advised of these unrelated counts at Mr. Chesebro’s trial, this would create confusion of the issues, spillover, and the admission of unduly prejudicial evidence,” they wrote.
Beyond the two requests scheduled to be considered at the hearing, waiting in the wings are severance motions filed by the former president and Trump-aligned attorneys John Eastman and Ray Smith. All three said they will not be ready for trial in October.
“Proceeding to trial in a major RICO case six weeks after indictment obviously does not give sufficient time to prepare for trial. Such a conclusion should be apparent on the fact of it without the need for sophisticated legal analysis,” Eastman’s attorney, Buddy Parker, wrote in court filings.
Smith’s attorney, meanwhile, proposed trying the case in “manageable groups” of defendants.
In a written order, the judge said he plans to ask Willis at the hearing for an estimate of how long prosecutors would take to present their case in the scenarios that everyone is tried together or if they are divided.
The 19 co-defendants are accused of entering a criminal enterprise to overturn Georgia’s election results so that Trump could remain in power. They face a combined 41 charges spanning from conspiring to commit false statements and writings to state Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act charges.
The co-defendants were scheduled to be arraigned in person Wednesday, but all of them pleaded not guilty in writing and waived their appearances.
Minutes after the final defendant filed their waiver Tuesday, McAfee, the judge, scheduled the hearing to consider Chesebro’s and Powell’s severance motions.
Thanks to Georgia court rules allowing cameras in the state’s courtrooms, the hearing is expected to be livestreamed, which McAfee said last week would be on YouTube.
“We have been livestreaming all of our major proceedings on a Fulton County-provided YouTube channel,” McAfee said Thursday, according to WSB-TV. “And our plan was to do that with this case as well. So there’s going to be a YouTube feed the entire time.”
It’s expected that the proceeding will be streamed on Judge Scott McAfee’s YouTube channel, where he has broadcast other proceedings.
Four local TV channels — WSB-TV, WAGA-TV, WANF-TV and WXIA-TV — were approved as pool networks by McAfee and allowed to record images and sound from the courtroom, according to court filings.