Judge Aileen Cannon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida has set the trial for the criminal case involving former President Donald Trump and charges of mishandling classified documents to commence on May 20, 2024.
The decision came despite Trump’s request for an indefinite postponement, which was rejected by the court.
This scheduling is poised to become a significant political event, as it falls after many states’ presidential primary contests but before the general election in November.
Justice Department prosecutors, led by special counsel Jack Smith, had advocated for a mid-December trial, hoping for a verdict before the GOP presidential primary voters went to the polls early next year.
Judge Cannon explained her choice to postpone the trial to May of the following year, citing the extensive amount of evidence involved in the case, including more than 1.1 million non-classified documents, video footage, and classified materials.
“The complexity of handling these documents necessitated sufficient time for both sides to review and evaluate the evidence adequately,” she said.
Trump’s legal team had urged the judge to delay setting a trial date, with an underlying implication that the trial should occur after the November 2024 presidential election.
They cited the potential impact of the election on the right to a fair trial and the complexity of the case, among other factors.
The Justice Department, however, opposed this request, asserting that “the case was not unusually complex and could proceed sooner.”
The trial will proceed with 37 felony counts related to the illegal retention of classified documents and obstruction of justice.
These charges include willful retention of national defense information, conspiracy to obstruct justice, withholding and concealing documents, and making false statements.
In her order, Judge Cannon outlined the schedule for pre-trial hearings and filing deadlines over the next ten months, culminating in the commencement of the jury trial on May 20, 2024.
Despite the varying arguments presented by both parties, the court determined that a fair trial required proper time management and handling of the extensive evidence involved.