Fulton County’s District Attorney Fani Willis (D) on Wednesday insisted former President Trump and all of his co-defendants in the 2020 election interference case be tried together in October, despite already-emerging skepticism from the judge.
“The State requests this Court to keep all defendants together for trial … until the Defendants have presented to this Court their basis for severance,” Willis said in court documents made public Wednesday.
Trying the 19 defendants together is a stance Willis has firmly held since she announced sweeping racketeering charges in the case, where Trump and numerous allies are accused of interfering in Georgia’s 2020 election results to keep the former president in power. Trump lost the state to then-candidate Joe Biden.
But Trump has fought back as part of his broader efforts to delay his criminal cases as he campaigns to return to the White House.
The defendants face state Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act charges, which allow Willis to tie together several plots her office claims had the same objective — even if each defendant is not inherently connected. Together, they face a combined 41 charges within the alleged criminal enterprise.
All of the defendants have pleaded not guilty.
After two defendants — Trump-aligned attorneys Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro — invoked their right to a speedy trial, allowing them to be tried this fall, Willis urged the court to move up the timeline for all other defendants.
But at a hearing last week, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee expressed deep doubts about Willis’s proposal. Wednesday’s filing marks prosecutors’ final bid at convincing McAfee otherwise before he rules.
Trump’s legal team and several other defendants staunchly opposed Willis’s request, with many saying they won’t be ready for trial in October.
But Willis on Wednesday noted that the defendants still retain their right to demand a speedy trial. If McAfee grants the severance requests, Willis warned a “cascade” of defendants may subsequently decide they want a speedy trial after all.
“Realistically, holding three or more simultaneous high-profile trials would create a host of security issues and would create unavoidable burdens on witnesses and victims, who would be forced to testify three or more times on the same set of facts in the same case,” prosecutors wrote.
In court filings, Trump agreed to waive his speedy trial right if the court grants his severance request.
A 19-defendant trial could pose any number of issues, from defense strategies to general logistics.
The defendants’ unified front has already begun to fracture as each starts to act in their own best interests. In a motion by Chesebro to sever his case from Powell, he insisted the pair never met, rendering it “impossible” to try their cases together.
A handful of fake electors have also started placing blame on Trump. The fake electors, who once signed documents falsely stating they were Georgia electors for the former president, said in court filings they acted “at the direction” of Trump.
Even finding a courthouse space large enough to host 19 defendants, their attorneys, Willis’s team, a jury and a judge — not to mention security for the former president, reporters and any members of the public — could prove to be difficult.
But Fulton County prosecutors said Wednesday that a trial of 19 defendants would be “feasible” within the local courthouse.
“Breaking this case up into multiple lengthy trials would create an enormous strain on the judicial resources of the Fulton County Superior Court,” prosecutors wrote. “The State is capable of trying large and complex cases.”