Fulton judge weighs protective order to block sharing of evidence in Trump 2020 election RICO case

By: - November 15, 2023 6:48 pm

Fulton County Judge Scott McAfee announced Wednesday that he intends to issue a protective order on Nov. 16 that prohibits attorneys from publicly sharing evidence deemed to contain sensitive information in the 2020 presidential election interference case. (File Jason Getz/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, Pool)

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee said he plans to issue a protective order prohibiting prosecutors and defense attorneys from releasing any evidence considered to be confidential in the 2020 presidential election interference case.

McAfee’s decision in favor of the protective order was announced during an hour-long court hearing on Wednesday at which the district attorney’s office and the majority of lawyers representing the 19 defendants agreed to the guidelines proposed by co-defendant David Shafer, former Georgia Republican Party chairman.

According to the proposed terms of the protective order, sensitive information cannot be made public. District Attorney Fani Willis filed an emergency motion on Tuesday seeking a protective order prohibiting the public release of any evidence disclosed in the case after several media outlets obtained video footage of witness statements provided by four co-defendants as part of their plea agreements.

Prosecutors are pursuing a felony racketeering case against Donald Trump and 14 of his allies that accuses them of illegally conspiring in Georgia and several other states to overturn the GOP incumbent’s narrow loss to Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

Fulton County prosecutors acknowledged Wednesday that not having a blanket protective order covering all evidence might lead to disagreements about what information is considered sensitive. They stated that they would like to see any evidence containing personal identifying information, including sensitive business records, covered by the order.

“We believe that we’re prepared to go through and say what’s sensitive and what’s not,” special prosecutor Nathan Wade said.

In Tuesday’s court filing, prosecutors alleged that Todd Harding, an attorney representing co-defendant Harrison Floyd, was responsible for the leak of proffer interviews to the media.

On Wednesday, attorney Jonathan Miller, who represents co-defendant and Misty Hampton, admitted he provided the interviews to one media outlet. Hampton is a former Coffee County elections supervisor who is accused of allowing the unauthorized hacking of voting equipment following the 2020 election.

“All four of those people that did their proffers, they stood in front of (McAfee), they did their pleas, it was all recorded and it was sent out there for the world to see,” Miller said. “To hide those proffers that show all the underlying things that went into those pleas misleads the public about what’s going on.”

Miller wasn’t the only attorney who said that while they would abide by the protective order set by McAfee, they disagreed that it was necessary. One defense attorney said that much of the information regarding the case is already publicly available through other cases involving Trump and the 2020 election that are playing out in other court jurisdictions.

Tom Clyde, an attorney representing the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, WSB-TV, and several other media outlets, also opposed the protective order.

“It’s essentially ordering parties that are facing criminal charges not to disclose information that may be relevant to their case,” he said.


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Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap

Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo.