Trump Pleads Not Guilty in Georgia Election Racketeering Case, Files to Sever Case

Former President Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty in the case against him and 18 co-defendants in Fulton County, Georgia, over his challenge of the 2020 election results.

On Aug. 14, the 19 defendants were charged with violating the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act in a 98-page indictment listing a total of 41 charges. The prosecutor, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, alleges that their actions in organizing a slate of alternate electors to cast ballots constituted a “criminal racketeering enterprise” and conspiracy.

President Trump is the fourth defendant to plead not guilty. Attorney and former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell, publicist Trevian Kutti, and attorney Ray Smith have also pleaded not guilty in advance of the arraignments scheduled for Sept. 6.

President Trump had been scheduled to appear before the Fulton County Superior Court at 9:30 a.m., before any other defendants. By entering a plea early, a defendant waives his or her right to appear in court, so President Trump won’t be at the scheduled arraignment.

Unlike President Trump’s previous arraignments, the Fulton County arraignment was set to be televised. Judge McAfee had on Aug. 22 agreed to allow cameras into the courtroom during the proceedings at the request of four local television stations.

Severed Case

On Aug. 31, President Trump’s legal team also filed a motion to sever his case from his co-defendants, citing defendant Kenneth Chesebro’s demand for a speedy trial. Other defendants are expected to do the same.

Ms. Willis proposed trying all 19 defendants together on Oct. 23 in response, and Judge Scott McAfee had approved a Nov. 3 trial date for Mr. Chesebro only.  The district attorney had then reiterated her request to try all 19 defendants together, citing the fact that no other defendant had filed a motion to sever their case, despite Trump attorney Steven Sadow writing that he intended to do so.

Mr. Sadow, who was appointed the same day as President Trump’s surrender in Fulton County, wrote in his filing that an Oct. 23 trial date would not give him enough time to prepare his client’s defense.

“Respectfully, requiring less than two months preparation time to defend a 98-page indictment, charging 19 defendants, with 41 various charges including a RICO conspiracy charge with 161 Overt Acts, Solicitation of Violation of Oath by Public Officer, False Statements and Writings, Forgery, Influencing Witnesses, Computer Crimes, Conspiracy to Defraud the State, and other offenses would violate President Trump’s federal and state constitutional rights to a fair trial and due process of law,” he wrote.

Mr. Sadow also cited his appearance in a case in Florida set to begin on Sept. 26 and which is expected to last two to three weeks, leading right into the proposed Fulton County trial date.

4th Plea

This marks the fourth time the former president has pleaded not guilty this year. In April, President Trump was charged with allegedly mishandling business documents in New York and pleaded not guilty to 34 counts. In June, he pleaded not guilty to 37 counts in a Florida case prosecuted by special counsel Jack Smith over allegedly mishandling classified documents, and he pleaded not guilty to an additional three charges in August.

In Washington, D.C., President Trump pleaded not guilty in August in another case prosecuted by Mr. Smith, over his challenge to the 2020 election results. The case is similar to the one in Fulton County but is being tried in federal court.

In the Washington case, District Judge Tanya Chutkan, decided on a March 4, 2024, trial date, the same as the trial date Ms. Willis originally proposed in Fulton County.

The Fulton County trial date has not yet been decided by a judge. Ms. Willis had said she intended to try all 19 defendants together, but the defendants have begun severing their cases from one another, citing differences in their schedules.

The presidential candidate has maintained popular support despite the charges against him.

On Aug. 23, President Trump surrendered at the Fulton County jail where he was released on $200,000 bond. Local officials insisted all 19 defendants be treated as any other local criminal, and the first-ever mugshot of a president of the United States was taken. The photo was released about an hour afterward and quickly went viral. The mugshot went up on President Trump’s campaign donation website and social media, including in his first post on X, formerly known as Twitter, since 2021, with the caption “Never Surrender,” and merchandise featuring the mugshot quickly followed.

The mugshot gave rise to unprecedented fundraising, according to the Trump campaign. On Aug. 25, two days after the photo’s release, the campaign brought in a record $4.18 million, and the weekend after the booking brought in a little more than $7 million total. Spokesperson Steven Cheung wrote on X on Aug. 26 that they’d raised $20 million in the previous three weeks.

Ms. Willis’s case rests on the allegation that the former president, his attorneys, the alternate electors named, and several others believed that President Trump had lost the election in Georgia in 2020, and “knowingly” acted to overturn an accurate result, according to the indictment. President Trump has maintained that he used legal avenues to challenge what he believed was election fraud in favor of his opponent.

“Does anybody really believe that I lost Georgia? Because I don’t,” he said in a campaign video published Aug. 30.

Arraignments

Besides the four not guilty pleas, 15 co-defendants are expected to be arraigned on Sept. 6, with 15-minute intervals given to each, starting at 9:30 a.m. with an hour break at noon; those defendants are Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Mark Meadows, Cathleen Latham, Scott Hall, Kenneth Chesebro, Harrison Floyd, Jeffrey Clark, Stephen Lee, Jenna Ellis, Shawn Still, David Shafer, Michael Roman, Bob Cheeley, and Misty Hampton.

A conviction under Georgia’s RICO Act carries a prison sentence of five to 20 years, a fine of $25,000 or three times the amount gained via criminal activity, or both.

From The Epoch Times

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