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Local News

All 19 Defendants in Fulton 2020 Election Racketeering Case Plead Not Guilty, Request Arraignment Waiver

Credit: iStock

by Stanley Dunlap, Georgia Recorder

Former President Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants have entered not guilty pleas ahead of their scheduled arraignments on Wednesday in the 2020 Fulton County election inference case. 

However, it remains unclear whether some waivers allowing defendants to avoid appearing in court on Wednesday will be granted by the judge.

On Wednesday, Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee is set to hold arraignments and conduct a hearing on motions filed for attorneys Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell as they seek to have their cases tried separately in the sweeping racketeering conspiracy case for allegedly trying to overturn Trump’s Georgia loss to Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential race.

During the 1 p.m. motion hearing for Powell and Chesebro, McAfee also wants Fulton County prosecutors to provide an estimate of how long it would take to present a case in which all 19 defendants would be tried at the same time, as well as other alternatives involving separate trials.

Chesebro’s trial is set to begin on Oct. 23 but McAfee has not yet set a date for Powell or the others who are asking for a speedy trial. 

Chesebro’s attorneys have tried to disassociate him from Powell, comparing their roles in the case to “oil and water” while also noting that the two have never had any type of communication with each other.

The charges against Chesebro are related to his role in developing the strategy for implementing slates of false GOP electors in Georgia and several other states who would cast votes in favor of Trump despite results confirming Biden’s victory. Georgia’s false electors gathered at the state Capitol in December 2020, weeks after GOP election officials confirmed through multiple recounts Biden narrowly won the contest.

Meanwhile, Dallas, Texas attorney Powell is also pushing for a speedy trial that takes place separately from the other defendants. Powell’s attorneys have argued in court filings that she was not acting as a Trump campaign lawyer at the time that the indictment alleges she conspired to overturn the election by filing a series of lawsuits that unsuccessfully challenged the results. 

Powell’s attorney also disputed the claim that she participated in getting a team of computer forensic experts to visit the Coffee County election office in order to gain unauthorized access to the electronic Dominion Voting Systems equipment. 

Trump, who pleaded not guilty to racketeering charges on Thursday, is asking for his trial date to be set after the Oct. 23 date schedule for Chesebro. His attorney argued in motion last week  that allowing him only two months to prepare a defense would be unfair in a case involving 18 other defendants and 41 different criminal charges.

In the 98-page indictment, Fulton County prosecutors also accuse Trump and supporters of spreading unfounded allegations of massive voter fraud and conspiring across multiple states to overthrow the 2020 election.

Last minute arraignment waivers filed

On Tuesday, Trump’s ex-White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, ex-Coffee County election director Misty Hampton and former Trump attorney John Eastman were among the remaining defendants to file waiver requests to avoid in-person arraignments. If the waivers were electronically filed with the court’ clerk’s office after the expiration of a 48-hour deadline prior to the scheduled arraignment then McAfee would decide whether to accept their requests to avoid appearing in court on Wednesday.

Additionally, Meadows, along with several co-defendants, are requesting their cases be transferred to federal court. These include former U.S. Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, state Sen. Shawn Still of Norcross, former Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer, and alternate GOP elector Cathy Latham, who is facing charges related to a breach of the voting systems in Coffee County.

Eastman became the latest of the defendants on Monday to request that his case be tried separately from the others, according to court filings. 

This article originally appeared on Georgia Recorder and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.