Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport after surrendering at the Fulton County jail on August 24, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images
Donald Trump on Wednesday offered to “exchange” his right to a speedy trial in his Georgia election conspiracy case for an Atlanta judge ruling that the former president will be tried separately from 18 other defendants in the case.
Trump’s co-defendant Mark Meadows, who served as his White House chief of staff, shortly afterward filed an identical offer waiving a speedy trial in exchange for his own case being tried separately.
The offers came a day after the Fulton County District Attorney’s office again argued that all 19 defendants in the case should be on trial together.
But prosecutors in that same filing also urged the judge to require defendants who want their cases severed to first waive their rights to a speedy trial to prevent a “logistical quagmire.”
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee has yet to rule on the severance requests that Trump, Meadows and 10 other defendants have filed. It is by no means clear that McAfee would grant severances based on waivers of speedy trial.
Trump and the other defendants have the absolute right to a speedy trial in the case.
Two co-defendants, the attorneys Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell, asked for quick trials and were granted them in late October.
Trump in late August asked McAfee to sever his trial from the other defendants, who with him are accused of conspiring in an illegal effort, which failed, to overturn his loss to President Joe Biden in Georgia’s 2020 election.
In his filing Wednesday, Trump’s lawyer Steven Sadow wrote, “President Trump hereby affirmatively waives his procedural right to file a demand for a speedy trial under O.C.G.A. § 17-7-170 in exchange for the severance he previously requested in his motion to sever filed on August 31, 2023.”
A day earlier, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ office said, “The State maintains that all the defendants shall be tried together.”
That filing warned that if McAfee severs the case, a potential “cascade of additional speedy trial demands emanating from the severed defendants,” before a Nov. 5 deadline, which could force the court to hold three or more trials in coming weeks.
Prosecutors said that “holding three or more simultaneous, high-profile trials would create a host of security issues” and would burden witnesses and victims who would be “forced to testify three or more times on the same set of facts in the same case.”
That filing also said that having McAfee require “such a waiver as a condition to sever any defendant who has moved for severance on the basis that he or she cannot be ready for trial by late October would prevent the logistical quagmire described above, the inevitable harm to victims and witnesses, and the risk of gamesmanship.”
“Defendants wishing to be severed should make this showing prior to the Court severing them from trial, and severing these defendants prior to the defendants making this showing would be premature,” prosecutors wrote.
“Further, any defendant seeking a severance on the basis of not being ready for trial by October 23, 2023, should inform this Court on the record of when they expect to be ready for trial.”
The filings Wednesday by Trump and Meadows do not say when they expect to be ready for trial.