(ATLANTA) — Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis in a filing Tuesday reiterated her desire for all 19 defendants charged in her Georgia election interference case to stand trial together, telling the judge that her office “maintains its position that severance is improper at this juncture and that all Defendants should be tried together.”
The development came on the same day that the judge overseeing the hearing over former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ request to move his case from state court into federal court requested “limited additional briefing” before he renders a decision on the matter.
Willis’ filing came after Judge Scott McAfee ordered defendant Kenneth Chesebro to stand trial on Oct. 23, following Chesebro’s request for a speedy trial — and after former President Donald Trump’s attorneys alerted the court that they would move to sever the case.
The DA is seeking clarification on the recent order from Judge McAfee, which stated that trial deadlines he set for Chesebro “do not apply to any codefendants.”
“It is unclear to the State of Georgia from the text of the Order whether the Court’s intention was to sever Defendant Chesebro’s trial from the other defendants,” the DA’s filing states.
In pushing to keep the defendants together, Willis argues in the filing that there is “insufficient information before the Court for it to determine whether a motion to sever could be obtained by any of the Defendants.”
The filing requests that “at a minimum,” the judge orders former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell, who has also filed a speedy trial motion, to stand trial at the same time as Chesebro.
The DA’s office has also also asked the judge to set a deadline for any defendant who wants to sever the case.
Trump, Chesebro, Meadows, Powell and 15 others were charged by Willis earlier this month in a sweeping racketeering indictment for alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the state of Georgia. The former president says his actions were not illegal and that the investigation is politically motivated.
Meadow’s charges relate in part to his role in the infamous Jan. 2, 2021, phone call Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — actions that Meadows argues he took as a federal official acting “under color” of his position as Trump’s chief of staff.
Meadows testified at his hearing Monday that his case should be moved into federal court because he didn’t do “anything that was outside of my role as chief of staff,” while prosecutors argued that his actions were purely political and unrelated to his official duties — and therefor do not qualify for removal.
In the judge’s order, filed Tuesday, he essentially asks both sides: What if some of Meadows’ actions were performed in his official role, and some weren’t — would that qualify for removal?
“Would a finding that at least one (but not all) of the over acts charged occurred under the color of Meadows’s office, be sufficient for federal removal of a criminal prosecution?” the Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee asked.
Both sides were ordered to submit their responses by Thursday afternoon.
The judge’s order came as several defendants in the case waived their formal arraignment and entered a plea of not guilty to all charges.
Powell and publicist Trevian Kutti both entered not guilty pleas Tuesday, following a not guilty plea entered Monday by Georgia attorney Ray Smith III.
Both Powell and Smith’s filings said it’s their attorneys’ understanding that by filing a waiver, they “are excused from appearing” at the upcoming arraignment, which McAfee has set for Sept. 6 for all 19 defendants to enter their pleas in the case.
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