Donald Trump pleaded not guilty on Thursday in the ongoing case regarding the alleged illegal efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia. He also sought to sever his case from some other defendants facing similar charges.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee had previously scheduled arraignment hearings for Trump and the 18 other individuals charged in the case on September 6. However, Trump’s legal team filed a not-guilty plea on his behalf, thereby waiving the need for his in-person appearance at the arraignment.
This decision spared Trump from the dramatic arraignment scenes that have accompanied his previous criminal cases, where he had to enter “not guilty” pleas in crowded courtrooms amidst tight security. Georgia courts allow news cameras in the courtroom, but Trump’s waiver means he won’t have to make a televised plea.
Judge McAfee announced his intention to live-stream the trial on a Fulton County-provided YouTube channel and permit video and photographs taken by press pool members.
Trump, along with 18 others, faces a 41-count indictment alleging a scheme to subvert the will of Georgia voters who had chosen Democrat Joe Biden over the Republican incumbent in the 2020 presidential election.
First Former US President with Mug Shot
Trump’s attorney also requested the separation of his case from those of defendants seeking expedited trials. The judge had already set an October 23 trial date for one of these defendants. Trump’s attorney argued that such a timeline would violate his constitutional rights to a fair trial and due process.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has advocated for all defendants to be tried together. After one defendant demanded a speedy trial, she requested the same October 23 trial date for everyone.
These developments highlight the pre-trial legal complexities stemming from the indictment, underscoring the challenges of bringing 19 defendants, including a former president, to trial simultaneously.
Jenna Ellis, an attorney alleged to have been involved in efforts to unlawfully appoint presidential electors, also pleaded not guilty and waived arraignment on Thursday.
Three other individuals charged in the indictment had previously waived arraignment in court filings, sparing them from an additional trip to Atlanta after they turned themselves in at the Fulton County Jail last week. Donald Trump made headlines as the first former president to have a mug shot taken when he surrendered at the jail on August 24.
Attempts to Move Cases to Federal Court
The case, filed under Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), is complex, and the logistics of bringing it to trial are likely to be challenging.
At least two defendants have requested a speedy trial and separate trials from others in the case. The judge set an October 23 trial date for one of them, Kenneth Chesebro, a lawyer involved in a plan to have 16 Georgia Republicans falsely declare Trump as the winner of the state’s election.
Some other defendants are attempting to move their cases to federal court, with former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows among them. A judge heard arguments on this request on Monday but has not yet issued a ruling.
Trump, who is currently the front-runner in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, has criticized these cases as politically motivated attempts to prevent his potential return to the White House.