Georgia prosecutor requests October trial date in Trump election subversion case

Fani Willis calls bluff of former Trump lawyer who gambled she wasn’t ready for speedy trial request

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Thursday 24 August 2023 21:35 BST
Related video: Lara Trump claims Trump mugshot will be on ‘posters in dorm rooms’

Georgia prosecutor Fani Willis has requested a 23 October trial for all 19 defendants in the 2020 election subversion case, including former President Donald Trump.

Ms Willis was responding to the request for a speedy trial from one of the defendants, lawyer Kenneth Chesebro.

His filing didn’t get much attention on Wednesday as former New York Mayor and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani stole the spotlight as he surrendered to the authorities in Atlanta and had his mugshot taken.

Mr Chesebro made the filing as a legal gamble to throw a wrench into the proceedings in the hopes that Ms Willis wasn’t ready for it, but Ms Willis seemingly called his bluff, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The filing from the state of Georgia says that it, via the DA, “respectfully requests that this Court specially set the trial in this case to commence for all 19 defendants on October 23, 2023”.

“Defendant Kenneth John Chesebro filed on August 23, 2023 a ‘DEMAND FOR SPEEDY TRIAL’,” it adds. “Without waiving any objection as to the sufficiency of Defendant Kenneth John Chesebro’s filing, the State requests that this Court specially set the trial in this case to commence on October 23, 2023, which falls within the term of the ‘next succeeding regular court term’ after the July-August, 2023 term of the Superior Court of Fulton County, Atlanta Judicial Circuit.”

The filing comes as Mr Trump is set to surrender to Georgia authorities on Thursday at 7.30pm. He’s reported to just have removed his lead lawyer Drew Findling from the case, replacing him with Steven Sadow, an attorney based in Atlanta.

On his site, Mr Sadow writes that he’s a “special counsel for white collar and high profile defense”.

Ms Willis told reporters last week that she was set to request that a trial would start within six months.

Legal observers noted that the timeline was unlikely as Ms Willis has stated that all 19 defendants would be tried together and attorneys for Mr Trump and other defendants have said that there will probably be disagreements ahead of any trial that will delay the proceedings, CNN reported.

Three defendants have filed motions to move the proceedings to federal court and the former president is expected to do the same.

Mr Trump has now indicated that he opposes the 23 October trial date. In a filing on Thursday, Mr Sadow wrote that Mr Trump “respectfully puts the Court on notice that he opposes the State’s ‘motion for entry of pretrial scheduling order’ and ‘motion to specially set trial’”.

Mr Sadow added that Mr Trump will be filing a motion to “sever his case” from Mr Chesebro “or any other co-defendant” who files motions for a speedy trial.

Later on Thursday, the judge in the case, Scott McAfee, approved the 23 October date for a trial for Mr Chesebro. He wrote that “at this time”, the deadlines in the new timeline don’t apply to the other defendants in the case.

“Due to the Defendant’s timely Demand for Speedy Trial filed August 23, 2023 ... scheduling will occur on an expedited timeline to meet the November 3, 2023, deadline to begin trial. At this time, these deadlines do not apply to any co-defendants,” Judge McAfee wrote.

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