Former U.S. president Donald Trump pleaded not guilty on Thursday and said he’ll skip a hearing next week in the case accusing him and others of illegally trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee had set arraignment hearings for Trump and the 18 others charged in the case for Sept. 6. A court filing waiving arraignment means Trump won’t have to show up for that.
The decision to skip an in-person appearance averts the dramatic arraignments that have accompanied the three other criminal cases Trump faces, in which the Republican former president has been forced amid tight security into a courtroom and entered “not guilty” pleas before crowds of spectators. Georgia courts have fairly permissive rules on news cameras in the courtroom, and this step means Trump won’t have to enter a plea on television.
Trump and 18 others were charged earlier this month in a 41-count indictment that outlines an alleged scheme to subvert the will of Georgia voters who had chosen Democrat Joe Biden over the Republican incumbent in the presidential election.
Several other people charged in the indictment had already waived arraignment in filings with the court, saving them a trip to the courthouse in downtown Atlanta. Trump previously travelled to Georgia on Aug. 24 to turn himself in at the Fulton County Jail, where he became the first former president to have a mug shot taken.
The case, filed under Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, is sprawling, and the logistics of bringing it to trial are likely to be complicated. Legal manoeuvring in the case has already begun.
At least two defendants have filed demands for a speedy trial and have asked to be tried separately from others in the case. The judge has set an Oct. 23 trial date for one of them, Kenneth Chesebro, a lawyer who worked on the coordination and execution of a plan to have 16 Georgia Republicans sign a certificate falsely stating that Trump won the state and declaring themselves the state’s “duly elected and qualified” electors.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has said she wants all of the defendants tried together, and she asked the judge to set an Oct. 23 trial date for everyone.
Trump’s lawyer Steve Sadow has said in court filings that he objects to that date and plans to file a motion to separate Trump’s case from that of anyone who files a speedy trial demand.
Some of the others charged are trying to move their cases to federal court. A judge on Monday heard arguments on such a request by former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, but the judge did not immediately rule.
Trump, the front-runner in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, has criticized the cases against him as part of a politically motivated attempt to keep him from winning back the White House.
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