4:42 p.m. ET, September 6, 2023
Here are key takeaways from Fulton County’s first hearing in the Georgia election subversion case
By CNN’s Jeremy Herb
Jason Getz/Pool/Getty Images
The trajectory of the sprawling trial in Fulton County, Georgia, of former President Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants became clear Wednesday in the first televised hearing on the case since charges were filed last month.
The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office said a four-month trial was planned, while defense attorneys for two of the defendants, pro-Trump attorneys Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell, argued that their cases should be separated from those of the other defendants.
The state judge presiding over Trump’s election subversion case, Scott McAfee, rejected a request from Chesebro and Powell to separate their cases – both of whom have requested a speedy trial – but was skeptical of the district attorney’s desire for a trial all 19 defendants begin next month.
Here are the key things you should know at the first hearing:
Judge skeptical about schedule: McAfee expressed skepticism about Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s desire to hold a joint trial for all 19 defendants in October.
The judge has already set an Oct. 23 trial date for Chesebro after he filed a motion for an expedited trial under Georgia law, and Willis responded with a request that all 19 defendants be tried at the same time.
McAfee did not reject that request – but he expressed doubts at Wednesday’s hearing.
The district attorney’s office expects the trial against the 19 defendants to last about four months, not including jury selection, and prosecutors expect to call more than 150 witnesses. However, McAfee thought the timeline was very optimistic, saying, “It could easily be double that,” given the number of defendants in the case.
Judge rejects attempts to separate Powell from Chesebro: While McAfee suggested that Powell and Chesebro be separated from the other 17 defendants, he ruled from the bench Wednesday, denying their requests to separate their cases.
McAfee ruled that Powell and Chesebro will stand trial together on October 23.
“Based on what was presented today, I do not believe the settlement for Mr. Cheseboro or Powell is necessary to achieve a fair determination of the guilt or innocence of either defendant in this case,” McAfee said.
Defendants point fingers at each other: Chesebro’s and Powell’s attorneys each pursued the same strategy at Wednesday’s hearing: They distanced their client from the other co-defendants.
Manny Arora, representing Chesebro, argued that his client never met Powell and was never in Coffee County, Georgia, where a violation of the voting system is part of the allegations in the indictment against Powell.
When Powell’s attorney Brian Rafferty spoke, he did the same, saying Powell did not know Chesebro and was not involved in the false election allegations against Chesebro. He argued that Powell was “not the driving force” behind the break-in to the voting machines.