Fulton County Superior Judge Scott McAfee hears motions from attorneys representing Ken Chesebro and Sidney Powell in Atlanta on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2023. Jason Getz/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, Pool
Two defendants charged in the Fulton County 2020 election interference racketeering case are set to go to trial on Oct. 23 after a judge on Wednesday denied their request to have their cases tried separately.
At the end of a 75-minute hearing on Wednesday, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee ordered that defendants Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro would stand trial together in October in the case that alleges that the two attorneys were part of broader conspiracy to try to overturn the 2020 presidential election won in Georgia by Democrat Joe Biden over Republican incumbent Donald Trump.
McAfee said he disagreed with the attorneys for Powell and Chesebro, who said their cases should be severed due to the fact that the two co-defendants have never had any contact with each other and circumstances surrounding their felony charges are unrelated.
In response to Chesebro and Powell’s requests for speedy trials, McAfee ordered Monday that Powell also be tried on the previously scheduled Oct. 23 trial date for Chesebro.
No trial date has been set for the other defendants, although McAfee noted the ambitious timeline of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis wants to have Trump and the 18 co-defendants stand trial at that time.
On Wednesday, a Fulton prosecutor said that the 19 defendants are charged under Georgia’s RICO Act (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations), which doesn’t require each defendant to have direct ties or knowledge of one another in order to be tried together.
Prosecutors argued that Chesebro and Powell were involved in the overarching conspiracy to unlawfully disrupt Georgia’s election system even if their method of doing so varied.
The charges against Chesebro are related to his role in developing the strategy for implementing false GOP electors in Georgia and several other states who would cast votes in favor of Trump despite Biden’s victory.
Powell faces several felony counts for allegedly helping hire a team of computer forensic experts involved in a Coffee County voting system breach that occurred weeks after the 2020 election.
Special prosecutor Nathan Wade said Wednesday that trying 19 defendants simultaneously is the most feasible method for a trial they estimate will last four-months, not including jury selection, and will have an estimated 150 witnesses take the stand.
“As this (criminal) enterprise operated in multiple states, the conspiracy evolved. When one thing didn’t work they moved onto the next thing,” said Deputy District Attorney Will Wooten.
Chesebro’s attorney Scott Grubman said that both Chesebro and Powell could have their cases tainted by having the same jury hear the cases potentially putting them at an unfair disadvantage to receive a fair trial.
“You’ll have days, if not weeks, or god forbid even months, of testimony just related to the Coffee County allegations,” Grubman said.
McAfee rejected the defense attorneys’ claims that the two cases would become muddled if tried together.
“I think the argument that they are charged on two separate silo charges strengthens the idea that there won’t be confusion among jurors or spillover evidence,” he said toward the end of Wednesday’s hearing.
However, McAfee advised Fulton prosecutors that a trial involving 19 defendants on Oct. 23 would be both logistically and legally challenging.
The case could also be sidetracked by a federal court’s ruling on whether former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and two other defendants should have their cases removed from state court. Trump’s attorneys argued in legal filings that mounting a strong defense will take longer than the two months leading up to Oct. 23.
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