Two co-defendants of former President Donald Trump are set to begin trial on Monday after a judge rejected their arguments to dismiss the Georgia election interference case against them.
Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, among the 19 individuals charged in the case, argued that the charges against them should be dropped on multiple grounds, including the assertion that prosecutors had targeted a wide range of conduct.
The extensive indictment alleges that various actions by different defendants, from encouraging legislators to reject legitimate electoral votes to manipulating voting equipment software, were part of a criminal conspiracy to unlawfully alter the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee stated in a Wednesday order that Georgia prosecutors have the authority to bring criminal prosecutions related to elections, even though the federal Electoral Count Act governs Congress’ process for counting electoral votes. On Tuesday, McAfee also rejected several other pre-trial arguments made by Powell and Chesebro.
“The prevalence of Georgia law does not support the contention that federal law was intended to govern conduct related to state electors exclusively,” McAfee wrote in the Wednesday order.
This ruling sheds light on how McAfee might handle similar legal strategies if Trump employs them as his trial in Georgia approaches, which has not yet been scheduled. Powell and Chesebro are facing trial earlier due to their request for a speedy trial, and McAfee rejected prosecutors’ request to try the other defendants simultaneously.”
Both Powell and Chesebro contested the single charge that prosecutors had filed against not only them but every other defendant in the case: violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. This law is designed to target organized criminal enterprises, allowing prosecutors to link various crimes and defendants.
As part of the alleged conspiracy, prosecutors claimed that Powell orchestrated an unlawful breach of election equipment in Coffee County, Georgia – while the indictment suggests that Chesebro outlined strategies to disrupt or delay Congress’ Jan. 6 count of electoral votes.
During a hearing last week, Powell’s attorney, Brian Rafferty, argued that “literally thousands, if not millions” of Americans engaged in acts similar to those included in the alleged RICO conspiracy, such as petitioning state legislatures or party electors.
He contended that this demonstrated a broader application of the statute than originally intended. Rafferty asserted that the statute should be confined to behavior related to financial gain or causing harm.
However, McAfee countered in his Tuesday ruling, referencing a provision within the statute itself stating that it should be “liberally construed.”
McAfee also dismissed a series of other challenges made by Powell and Chesebro against separate conspiracy charges they each faced, stating that many of these challenges pertained to fact-based issues more appropriately addressed during the trial.
To date, only one defendant, Scott Hall, has entered into a plea deal. Hall pleaded guilty to conspiring to intentionally interfere with the performance of election duties and received a five-year probation sentence.
As part of the state’s indictment, it was alleged that Hall unlawfully tampered with electronic ballot markers and tabulating machines in Georgia.