A judge in the state of Georgia has made the decision to separate the trial of former President Donald Trump and 16 other defendants from two co-defendants who are scheduled to face trial next month. The charges against them relate to their alleged participation in a scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 United States election.
Lawyers Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, who are among the co-defendants, had requested a speedy trial, prompting Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee to set their trial start date for October 23. However, Trump and the other defendants argued that they needed separate trials, with some expressing concerns about their readiness for a trial next month.
Judge McAfee cited several factors, including the tight timetable, as reasons for his decision to separate the trials. He emphasized the importance of safeguarding each defendant’s due process rights and ensuring adequate pre-trial preparation. In some instances, he even hinted at the possibility of further dividing the defendants into smaller groups for trial.
The charges against Trump and the 18 co-defendants, which include lawyers, allies, and advisers, stem from allegations that they participated in a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the 2020 election in Georgia. This marks the second indictment against Trump related to election interference and the fourth criminal charge he has faced this year, including federal election interference charges in August, federal charges of mishandling classified documents in June, and a state-level prosecution in New York tied to a hush-money payment.
Trump, who remains a prominent figure in the Republican Party’s 2024 nomination race, has maintained his plea of not guilty and consistently denied any wrongdoing, often accusing officials of attempting to derail his re-election bid.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis initially sought to try all 19 defendants together, arguing that it would be more efficient and fair. However, the judge’s decision to separate the cases is expected to be a relief for some defendants seeking to avoid being associated with Sidney Powell, who prominently promoted baseless conspiracy theories about foreign interference in the election.
Notably, Trump personally faces 13 charges in the Georgia case, including solicitation of a public officer to violate his oath, conspiracy to commit forgery, and making false statements and filings.
Additionally, all defendants, including the former president, are charged under Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), typically reserved for cases involving organized crime and corruption. This charge enables prosecutors to target multiple individuals committing separate crimes while working toward a common goal.