Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis continues to argue that Donald Trump and his 18 co-defendants in an election racketeering case should be tried together starting Oct. 23, a brisk pace Trump has already opposed.
Superior Judge Scott McAfee set that date to start a trial for two of the co-defendants, Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell, who demanded speedy trials. But Trump and others have asked to separate their trials from those, with Trump formally asking Wednesday not to have a speedy trial.
Willis told McAfee in a court filing no court has forbid holding all the trials together and the logistics would be easier to try all the defendants at once rather than in several trials that could potentially run at the same time with several judges and juries. A Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations charge against all the defendants would require the same evidence for each trial if they are separated, Willis said.
“The State maintains that all the defendants shall be tried together,” Willis wrote in her filing Tuesday that was posted to the court docket Wednesday. “The RICO conspiracy charge ensures any trial would share the same evidence and witnesses.”
McAfee hasn’t set a trial schedule for 17 defendants including Trump.
Prosecutors estimated a trial for all 19 co-defendants would last four months and feature 150 witnesses − not counting jury selection, which could be lengthy. The trial could hinder Trump’s campaign.
A Fulton County grand jury indicted the defendants on a combined 41 charges Aug. 14. The racketeering charges allege the participants in a criminal enterprise sought tried to overturn the 2020 election by lying to state officials, asking state officials to violate their oaths of office, recruiting alternate presidential electors and tampering with election equipment.
All of the defendants have pleaded not guilty.
Willis said other defendants could demand speedy trials after the start of the one for Chesebro and Powell, causing a judicial traffic jam of witnesses and victims in multiple cases reciting the same testimony and evidence repeatedly.
Willis said the Fulton County Superior Court can handle large cases, as demonstrated by an Atlanta Public Schools case that began with 35 defendants and tried 13. But breaking up the cases “would create an enormous strain on the judicial resources” of the court.
“The State is capable of trying large and complex cases,’ Willis wrote.
Trump’s lawyers have said starting the trial Oct. 23, as Chesebro and Powell are scheduled, would prevent them from reviewing all the evidence in the case and would deny him a fair trial.
Steven Sadow, Trump’s lawyer in the Georgia case, has formally asked to separate his case from Chesebro and Powell, and to not have a speedy trial for Trump.
Trump, who is campaigning for president, faces four criminal cases in the next year and his lawyers have sought to delay trials until after the 2024 election.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Georgia DA Fani Willis proposes to try Donald Trump, 18 others Oct. 23