September 13, 2023 - 10:12 am
ATLANTA — Former President Donald Trump is waiving his right to seek a speedy trial in the Georgia case in which he and 18 others are accused of participating in an illegal scheme to overturn his loss in the 2020 presidential election.
Trump’s filing is part of the legal maneuvering as Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis seeks to try all 19 defendants together starting next month. Most of the defendants have sought to separate their cases from some or all of the others, with many saying they will not be ready by Oct. 23, when a trial has been set for two defendants who have already filed demands for a speedy trial. The judge has expressed skepticism that all defendants could go to trial that day.
Trump’s latest move is in line with efforts the early front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination has taken in his other cases to delay proceedings while he seeks a return to the White House in the 2024 election. He is facing prosecution in a state case in New York, as well as federal cases in Washington and Florida.
The waiver of a speedy trial, which an attorney for Trump said was filed Tuesday, came on the heels of a brief filed by Willis’ office that all the defendants should be tried together because of efficiency and fairness issues. Prosecutors said holding several lengthy trials instead of one beginning on Oct. 23 would “create an enormous strain on the judicial resources” of the court and would favor the defendants tried later, who would have the advantage of seeing the state’s evidence and arguments ahead of time.
According to Georgia law, any defendant who files a demand for a speedy trial has a right to have a trial begin within the court term when the demand is filed or in the next court term. Court terms in Fulton County are two months long and begin the first Mondays in January, March, May, July, September and November.
The Georgia indictment against Trump and the others was filed in the court term that ended earlier this month. Lawyers Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro filed their speedy trial demands before the end of that court term, meaning a trial would have to start before the end of the current court term in early November. The judge has set it to begin Oct. 23.
Prosecutors had noted in their Tuesday brief that while many of the defendants have filed motions to separate their cases from the others, they had not waived their right to demand a speedy trial. They raised concerns that could result in several trials in the high-profile case happening simultaneously.
Meanwhile, five of the defendants are currently seeking to have their cases heard in federal court rather than in state court. They include Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, who argued that his actions alleged in the indictment were taken within the scope of his duties as a federal official.
U.S. District Judge Steve Jones last week rejected Meadows’ arguments and sent his case back to Fulton County Superior Court. Meadows has appealed Jones’ ruling to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He asked Jones to put his ruling on hold while that appeal is pending, but Jones on Tuesday issued an order denying that request. Meadows still has a similar request for a hold pending before the appeals court.
The other four defendants who are seeking to move their cases to federal court — former U.S. Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and three fake electors — have hearings before Jones scheduled for next week.