A Georgia judge has ruled that former President Donald Trump and 16 others will be tried separately from two defendants in the case accusing them of participating in an illegal scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee made the decision after lawyers Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro demanded a speedy trial, with their trial set to begin on October 23. Trump and other defendants had requested separate trials from Powell and Chesebro, citing the need for more time to prepare.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis had originally sought to try all 19 defendants together, arguing for efficiency. However, McAfee cited the tight timetable as a factor in his decision to separate Trump and 16 others from Powell and Chesebro. He also mentioned the possibility of further dividing them into smaller groups for trial.
The decision is expected to be welcomed by other defendants looking to distance themselves from Powell, who has been vocal about pushing conspiracy theories regarding election interference.
The indictment against Trump and the others details alleged acts to undo his 2020 loss in Georgia, including suggesting the secretary of state could help find enough votes for Trump to win, harassing an election worker, and attempting to persuade Georgia lawmakers to appoint a new slate of electoral college electors favorable to Trump.
McAfee expressed skepticism about the efficiency argument presented by prosecutors, as the Fulton County courthouse does not have a courtroom large enough to hold 19 defendants and the necessary personnel. He also noted that trying all 19 defendants together would increase the time needed for various trial procedures.
The judge aims to have a jury seated by November 3 to satisfy Powell and Chesebro’s demand for a speedy trial. However, litigation is ongoing for five defendants seeking to move their cases to federal court, and McAfee expressed uncertainty about the impact if they were to succeed midway through a state court trial.
U.S. District Judge Steve Jones had previously rejected a bid by Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, to move his case to federal court, with Meadows appealing the ruling. The other four defendants have hearings scheduled before Jones next week, and McAfee has denied their request to stay pretrial litigation while their efforts to move to federal court are pending.