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An Atlanta judge denied prosecutors’ request Thursday to try former President Donald Trump and 18 co-defendants simultaneously next month on charges that the group attempted to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee ruled that two co-defendants who had invoked their right to a speedy trial could sever their case from the former president, court filings show.
“The Court joins the skepticism expressed by several federal courts that denying severance always ensures efficiency, especially in ‘mega trials’ such as this,” McAfee wrote in an order, calling it “a procedural and logistical inevitability” that co-defendants would be separated.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis had opposed co-defendants severing their cases from each other, arguing in a Wednesday filing that “multiple lengthy trials would create an enormous strain” on the court.
The Atlanta prosecutor charged Trump and his allies Aug. 14 with 41 counts, including violations of Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, conspiracy, false statements and asking a public official to violate their oath of office.
All 19 co-defendants have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell, who were charged after working as campaign lawyers for Trump in 2020, had their request for a trial date of Oct. 23 in the Peach State approved by the judge last week.
“Defendants Chesebro and Powell will join each other at trial, however, the other 17 defendants are severed from these two,” McAfee said in his order, also denying the pair’s request to separate from each other. “Additional severances may follow.”
The judge also denied requests in his ruling to pause prosecutions of former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and other defendants who are seeking to have their cases moved to federal court.
McAfee said in a livestreamed hearing on Thursday morning that it would have been “a bit unrealistic” to place all 19 defendants behind the same table to begin the trial in late October, saying there was “no courtroom adequately large enough.”
Trump, 77, had already asked through his attorney Steven Sadow to have his right to a speedy trial waived — with the lawyer arguing that an October trial date would interfere with a separate Medicare fraud case he faces in Florida federal court.
McAfee set a motion deadline of Dec. 1 for the former president, pushing a potential trial date close to the end of the year or into 2024.