Former US President Donald Trump has submitted a not guilty plea in the ongoing Georgia election fraud case, opting out of an in-person court appearance scheduled for the following week.
Among a group of 19 individuals charged with an alleged plot to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia, Trump surrendered himself at the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta last week, where his booking photo was taken. Denying any wrongdoing, Trump has consistently labeled the charges as politically motivated.
The ex-president faces a total of 13 felony charges, including racketeering, centered on allegations of pressuring Georgia officials to reverse the state’s 2020 presidential election outcome.
In a legal document filed on Thursday, Trump acknowledged his understanding of the allegations and his right to appear in court, stating, “Understanding my rights, I do hereby freely and voluntarily waive my right to be present at my arraignment on the indictment and my right to have it read to me in open court.”
As the leading contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, Trump has attended all prior arraignments. He had appeared in person for cases in New York and Florida, while choosing not to seek a virtual appearance for a separate case in Washington DC. In each instance, stringent security measures were enacted due to the presence of both Trump supporters and counter-protesters near the court premises.
Notably, the Fulton County jurisdiction offers defendants the discretion to forgo an in-person appearance when formally charged with criminal offenses. Attorney Brian Tevis, representing co-defendant Rudy Giuliani, indicated that defendants frequently choose to waive their arraignment in such circumstances.
In a recent development, three co-defendants, including former Trump attorneys Ray Stallings Smith and Sidney Powell, as well as former celebrity publicist Trevian Kutti, entered pleas of not guilty earlier this week. Trump’s arraignment, originally scheduled for September 6, was set to be followed by the arraignment of other defendants at 15-minute intervals.
All 19 individuals implicated in the case, including Trump, face charges under Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, also known as the Rico act. This legislation enables prosecutors to establish connections between lawbreaking subordinates and those orchestrating or ordering the illegal activities.
Fulton County’s District Attorney, Fani Willis, a Democrat, has drawn criticism from certain Republicans and Trump allies for her decision to indict the former president.
State Senator Colton Moore had called for a special session to impeach Ms. Willis, but Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, a fellow Republican, expressed reservations about the necessity of such a move. Governor Kemp reaffirmed his commitment to uphold the law and the Constitution, irrespective of the political implications.