Fulton County Judge Scott McAfee ruled Thursday in favor of severing the trials for 17 of the defendants, including former President Donald Trump, from that of two of the defendants in the election interference case.
The trial for the two defendants, lawyers Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell, is scheduled to begin Oct. 23. McAfee denied their request to have trials separate from each other. McAfee said his decision “is simply a procedural and logistical inevitability.”
“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 in the ruling. “Relocating to another larger venue raises security concerns that cannot be rapidly addressed.”
McAfee also pointed to the projected length of trial as a factor. Prosecutors have said it could be four months long, with over 150 witnesses.
“[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.”
The other 17 defendants have not yet invoked their right to a speedy trial, but Judge McAfee suggested there may be more severances to come, writing, “Additional divisions of these 17 defendants may well be required.”
And Judge McAfee, acknowledging that one of the other major RICO cases that is being tried, the Young Slime Life (YSL) trial has been mired in jury selection for months, wrote that he “will endeavor to have a jury selected and sworn by November 3, 2023,” in the trial of Chesebro and Powell.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis had argued the 19 defendants should be tried together, arguing in a court filing that it would be feasible to do so, “whereas breaking this case up into multiple lengthy trials would create an enormous strain on the judicial resources of the Fulton County Superior Court.”
In his ruling, McAfee also denied requests from former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former Justice Department official Jeff Clark, and defendants David Shafer and Shawn Still to stay the proceedings in Fulton County while their motions to move their case to a federal venue are pending. This means they must continue to meet the deadlines in the Fulton County Court as scheduled.
This is a breaking story. It will be updated.