“You need a spreadsheet to keep track of it all,” said Caren Morrison, a former federal prosecutor now at Georgia State University’s law school.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) is known for her use of the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute to prosecute complex cases. Georgia’s law is more expansive than the federal RICO statute and, like the federal version, includes stiff penalties of up to 20 years in prison.
Nearly all of the defendants have hired their own teams of lawyers, who will file separate pleadings and generate a busy court calendar of hearings. And scheduling could become difficult, as Trump has been indicted in three other criminal cases, including a federal election-interference case and another alleging that he criminally mishandled classified documents after his presidency.
Trump surrendered amid media bedlam, with cable news networks deploying helicopters and telephoto lenses to track his travel from his home in Bedminster, N.J., to Atlanta.
He was released on a $200,000 bond before flying north again, but he kept the spotlight on himself with a fiery denouncement of Willis’s investigation as he prepared to board his private jet on the Atlanta airport tarmac. He also defiantly released an image of his scowling mug shot — the first of a U.S. president — on his newly restored Twitter account.
“What they’re doing is election interference or trying to interfere with an election,” he said. “There’s never been anything like it in our country before.”
Trump is facing 13 counts in the Georgia case, including violating the state’s racketeering act, soliciting a public officer to violate their oath, conspiring to impersonate a public officer, conspiring to commit forgery in the first degree and conspiring to file false documents.
Among the actions cited in the sweeping indictment are Trump’s phone calls to Georgia officials seeking their help reversing his defeat, the assembly of alternate presidential electors in December 2020 to cast votes for Trump even though Biden won the state, alleged harassment of local election officials falsely accused of tabulating thousands of fraudulent ballots, and an effort to examine and copy the hard drives of election equipment in rural Coffee County.
By Friday, the glare had subsided somewhat, with the final seven defendants surrendering in the hours following Trump’s booking at the Fulton County jail.
Among the court filings to land Friday was one from former campaign attorney Sidney Powell, who joined attorney Kenneth Chesebro in seeking a speedy trial. Willis has said that her office is ready to start in two months, but Trump’s new attorney has said he opposes that schedule and will seek to sever the former president’s case. Others may follow.
Also Friday, lawyers for Mark Meadows, who served as White House chief of staff under Trump during the 2020 election, made the case for why his prosecution should be moved to federal court.
Meadows’s attorneys have argued that the Fulton County charges cover his conduct while he was a federal official working as a top aide for Trump. They have cited a federal law known as the “removal statute,” which generally allows “any officer … of the United States” who is facing criminal prosecution in state court to move those proceedings to federal court if the case relates to actions that were part of the individual’s duties as a federal official.
The matter is scheduled for a hearing Monday morning before U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones for the Northern District of Georgia. In his filing Friday, Meadows argued that the removal statute should apply to his case despite the fact that he was deeply involved in the Trump campaign’s efforts to examine allegations of fraud.
“As Chief of Staff, Mr. Meadows did not stop assisting the President just because the President was doing something personal or political,” the filing states. “One would not say the pilot of Air Force One ceases to be a military official when he flies the President to an unofficial event. The same goes for the Chief of Staff. They do not take off their ‘official’ hats just because the President takes off his.”
Meadows’s attorneys pressed Jones to rule on his removal request at Monday’s hearing or “promptly after.”
Separately Friday, a judge denied bond for Harrison Floyd, the former Black Voices for Trump leader who was indicted on charges that he broke state laws in his role in a pressure campaign targeting Georgia election worker Ruby Freeman.
Unlike his co-defendants, Floyd did not negotiate bond conditions ahead of his surrender Thursday at the Fulton County Jail and remained in custody at the notorious facility known as “Rice Street,” where inmate deaths and decrepit conditions recently prompted a Justice Department civil rights investigation.
In an emergency hearing late Friday afternoon, Floyd appeared via videoconference before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Emily K. Richardson, telling her he could not afford to hire a private attorney. Richardson said Floyd did not meet the eligibility requirements to qualify for a public defender and was denied bond, though she did not specify why.
A representative of the Georgia Public Defender Council said in an interview that the office had evaluated Floyd’s case and would not be representing him, but declined to elaborate.
Ahead of the hearing, it was unclear if Floyd would be granted bond, given an outstanding federal case in which he is accused of assaulting an FBI officer. A Georgia-based defense lawyer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a case with which he is not involved, said the presence of federal charges could affect Floyd’s chances for release on bond, particularly given the allegation of violence against a federal officer.
While Richardson did not mention the federal case in her decision, Floyd cited the matter, claiming that he was accused of “simple assault” and that he did not have a “criminal record.” Dressed in a dark jumpsuit and speaking into a camera from an empty conference room, Floyd said that he had been cooperative with “pretrial services” in the federal case and that he would not be a flight risk in the Georgia case.
“I got on a plane. I voluntarily came here,” Floyd said. “I came here before the president was here.”
Richardson said Floyd’s bond would be taken up in a later hearing before Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who is presiding over the case.
The seven final defendants to surrender Friday included former Justice Department senior attorney Jeffrey Clark — whom Trump once considered installing as acting attorney general — who was booked and released on a $100,000 bond.
In 2020, Clark allegedly suggested sending a letter to officials in Georgia and other states saying that the Justice Department had “identified significant concerns” about the vote and that states should consider putting forth separate electors supporting Trump. He has denied wrongdoing in the racketeering case through a spokeswoman.
Shortly before noon, the final co-defendant surrendered: Stephen Cliffgard Lee, an Illinois pastor who faces five counts and is also accused of harassing Freeman, the election worker. Lee was released on a $75,000 bond.
Lee was captured on body-camera video when police responded to a 911 call at the home of Freeman, the county election worker whom Trump had accused of counting “suitcases” of illegal ballots at an Atlanta vote-processing site. After Lee repeatedly knocked on her door, he told officers he was “working with some folks to help Ruby out” and “get some truth.”
Iati and Gardner reported from Washington. Amber Phillips in Washington, Patrick Marley in Madison, Wis., and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez in Phoenix contributed to this report.