Former President Donald Trump's lawyers made a court filing Monday echoing an argument made by 2020 election lawyer Sidney Powell in a move to dismiss the racketeering count he faces in Georgia.
Both President Trump and Mrs. Powell were among 19 people charged by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, whose office accused them of racketeering violations during their activity after the 2020 election. All have pleaded not guilty.
Last week, Mrs. Powell—who generated headlines in 2020 for her "Kraken" election lawsuit predictions—stated in her motion to dismiss the case that Georgia's statute is vague in its present application by the Fulton County District Attorney's office.
“If the Georgia RICO statute reaches the conduct alleged here, then it is unconstitutionally vague. Already, its application has necessarily been decided on a case-by-case basis," her lawyers stated. "It has enabled the District Attorney’s office to make life-altering choices of those to indict—when thousands of people fall within the prosecutors’ definition of RICO here ... the State has even indicted First Amendment protected speech and conduct.”
Meanwhile, she argued that the state's RICO statute, referring to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act law, cannot survive a constitutional test if a court "reads into it an element of criminal financial gain for the individual and enterprise, and the economic or physical threat or injury.” Failing that, it would allow for the "punishment of speech and political conduct long and fully protected under the First Amendment," the court papers added.
Mrs. Powell and election lawyer Kenneth Chesebro, another co-defendant, have requested expedited proceedings and are slated to go to trial on Oct. 23. Both attempted to sever their cases from one another, while both their cases were severed from the 17 other co-defendants' cases, including President Trump's.
Last week, Fulton County Judge Scott McAfee shut down a plan from Ms. Willis' office to try all the co-defendants at the same time. Under Mrs. Willis' timeline, their trial would start next month, but the judge said it's not feasible.
"Beginning with the logistical concerns, the Fulton County Courthouse simply contains no courtroom adequately large enough to hold all 19 defendants, their multiple attorneys and support staff, the sheriff's deputies, court personnel, and the State's prosecutorial team," he wrote in his ruling. "Relocating to another larger venue raises security concerns that cannot be rapidly addressed."
The predicted length of the trial would also be a significant issue, the judge wrote. Prosecutors said that it could take as long as four months, but in a prior hearing, Judge McAfee said it may be double that.
"We must consider the ripple effects of a monthslong, multi-defendant trial on the local criminal justice system, sidelining dozens of defense counsel from handling other cases and preventing this Court—and quite likely most colleagues—from managing the rest of the docket," the judge said.
Judge McAfee also noted that five co-defendants are currently seeking to move their cases to federal court and litigation on the issue is ongoing. Should they succeed in moving their trials, it's not clear what the impact would be, he wrote.
The former president also faces state charges in New York City after Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg indicted him for allegedly falsifying business records in connection to the 2016 election. Federal prosecutors earlier this summer charged President Trump over his alleged mishandling of classified documents after he left the White House and for his actions following the 2020 election.
In a court filing late last week, special counsel Jack Smith's team filed court papers to place a gag order on the former president to prevent him from making public statements about the 2020 election case. Over the weekend, President Trump said that the move is an attempt by Mr. Smith to "take out" a leading political opposition candidate.