On Aug. 14, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis formally announced the state of Georgia’s 41-count indictment against former President Donald Trump and 18 others for allegedly attempting to overthrow the 2020 election. Trump, who’s also facing three other indictments in New York, Washington, D.C., and Florida, is the highest-profile person ever to be tried by Fulton County — right in front of rapper Young Thug, a.k.a Jeffery Williams, who’s accused of being a gang shot-caller in the 65-count YSL case. Both indictments outline winding racketeering and conspiracy cases involving multiple defendants; both of the men at their centers have denied all charges. Either trial could be regarded as a once-in-a-career operation, and yet Fulton County is taking on both at once.
Early reports suggest that the Trump case will face similar issues to those in the YSL trial, which has been going on for more than 15 months due to the complicated nature of the charges, the number of defendants, the difficulty of jury selection, and other factors — prompting headlines about how the county’s justice system is being “stretch[ed]… to the breaking point.” Last November, Judge Ural Glanville denied Fulton County’s motion to postpone the start of the YSL trial until this March, citing the defendants’ right to due process. But slowdowns have persisted even so. In June, to name one example, a hearing was pushed back after lawyer Eric Johnson was accused of letting defendant Christian Eppinger use his laptop to contact YSL members who aren’t in custody.
Defense attorney and former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani thinks “there’s absolutely no way” that the Trump trial will actually start in the six-month span that Willis has suggested, due to the county’s limited resources and a sprawling 19-person indictment that includes Trump lawyers such as Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman. “When a lot of the defendants are attorneys, they’re going to file motions,” he says. “They’re going to assert the attorney-client privilege.” The lawyers indicted in the Trump case will likely claim that their status as his counsel precludes their interactions from being used as evidence, which could result in numerous motions and delays.
Former Dekalb and Cobb County prosecutor Chris Timmons thinks the Trump case could take even longer than the year-plus it’s taken for the YSL case to get underway. He argues that the number of lawyer defendants involved, and Trump’s ongoing presidential aspirations, mean that a higher percentage of the 19 initial defendants in the Trump case will go to trial than in the YSL case, where 28 men have been whittled down to eight facing trial after plea deals and trial severance. He explains that for a lawyer, pleading out can essentially mean disbarring themselves, which makes going to trial a risk worth taking.
“You’ve got people who are wrapped up in their professional identity in the Trump indictment,” he says. “If somebody took my law degree away from me, that would not be quite the same as killing me, but close. You have more of those types of defendants in the Trump case than you do in the YSL case.”
The court hearing the YSL case is currently mulling more than 2,000 potential jurors, most of whom are saying they can’t handle the trial’s estimated six to nine-month period away from their jobs and families. In the Trump case, Court TV legal correspondent Julia Jenae notes that any potential jurors would need to be “carefully vetted” to avoid accusations of bias; this, too, could result in a jury selection process even longer than the one in the YSL case.
“Once it’s that many defendants [and] that much evidence, the jury is being asked to set aside more and more of their time to take on a trial like that,” says defense attorney Anastasios Manettas, who is representing YSL defendant Miles Farley on charges of murder, conspiracy to violate the RICO Act, criminal street gang activity, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. “I don’t see why the 19 defendants in the Trump trial is going to turn out any differently than the initial 28 in the YSL one.”
Fulton County could be dealing with two long, complex jury selection processes that together take the better part of a year — with the latter having the unprecedented specter of a past presidency and an ongoing election to contend with. The latest polls show that Trump is the leading GOP candidate months ahead of the primaries, and his framing of Willis and the other prosecutors trying him as President Joe Biden’s “lackeys” may only strengthen his base.
It’s reasonable to ask how Fulton County will balance these two manpower-intensive cases, but Timmons tells Rolling Stone that he doesn’t believe there will be an issue. He says that the cases will be handled by two different units within the DA’s office and will have no labor overlap.
“The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, like a lot of big district attorney’s offices, has special units,” he clarifies. “Here, you’ve got a gang unit, and you’ve got an anti-corruption unit. The gang unit’s handling the YSL case, the anti-corruption unit is handling the Trump case.“ While the two cases may delay other gang and corruption cases in their respective dockets, he says they are unlikely to directly affect each other.
Jenae agrees, noting that the two cases are at different points in their timelines: Trump and his co-defendants were just indicted, while Young Thug and his co-defendants have been held behind bars for more than a year. “The public likely views it as a lot at once, but I don’t see these as simultaneous,” she says. “I see them as two cases in one major DA’s office.”
Rahmani sees things slightly differently. He says that even with two different units handling the cases, he expects a lot of work for Fani Willis and other figures at the top of the Fulton County DA’s office. “DAs are offices of limited resources,” he says. “They’re often juggling dozens, sometimes more than a hundred cases at once. So this is something that’s going to take up a lot of time. Willis better be ready and have the resources to handle a case like [Trump’s], because she’s going to be overwhelmed with filings from many different lawyers.”
Source link: https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/donald-trump-young-thug-rico-trial-georgia-1234806462/