A Fulton County judge ruled Thursday the trial for two defendants indicted for alleged efforts to overturn 2020 election results must take place separately from the other 17 defendants.
Former President Donald Trump is included in the group of 17 defendants, which Judge Scott McAfee said may have to be divided further. Two defendants, lawyers Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell, will be tried as a pair, separate from the rest of the group.
Chesebro and Powell had petitioned the court to have their cases separated from the larger group and to be tried as individuals. McAfee partially granted their request but said they must be tried as a pair for the sake of a speedy trial.
“Beginning with the logistical concerns, the Fulton County Courthouse simply contains no courtroom adequately large enough to hold all 19 defendants, their multiple attorneys and support staff, the sheriff’s deputies, court personnel, and the State’s prosecutorial team,” McAfee said. “Relocating to another larger venue raises security concerns that cannot be rapidly addressed.
“[W]e must consider the ripple effects of a monthslong, multi-defendant trial on the local criminal justice system, sidelining dozens of defense counsel from handling other cases and preventing this Court — and quite likely most colleagues — from managing the rest of the docket.
“Additional divisions of these 17 defendants may well be required,” he added elsewhere in his ruling.
All 19 defendants were named in Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ indictment handed down last month. The group includes Trump, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis and many others.
Powell and Chesebro’s trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 23, and McAfee said the court will “endeavor to have a jury selected and sworn by November 3, 2023.”
McAfee has not set a trial date for any of the other defendants, though Willis has filed a motion requesting that he expedite the process.