Trump Co-Defendant’s ‘Risky Gamble’ Backfires in Georgia

Fulton County Jail/Reuters
Fulton County Jail/Reuters

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has proposed an astonishingly quick start to the trial for Donald Trump and his 18 co-defendants in Georgia, according to a Thursday court filing.

After co-defendant Kenneth Chesebro demanded on Wednesday that he get a speedy trial, Willis appears to have called his bluff, saying she’d be more than happy to put all 19 defendants on trial starting on Oct. 23, 2023—just eight weeks away.

It’s a big move from the March 2024 date she initially proposed, which still appeared to be wildly optimistic given the vast number of defendants involved.

Donald Trump was quick to voice his opposition to the proposal, filing a motion on Thursday afternoon to sever his case with Chesebro’s, and “any other co-defendant who files such a demand.”

Willis referenced Chesebro’s motion specifically in her Thursday filing proposing an October trial. “Without waiting on any objection as to the sufficiency of Defendant’s Kenneth John Chesebro’s filing, the State request that this Court specially set the trial in this case to commence on October 23, 2023, which falls within the term of the next succeeding regular court term after the July-August 2023 term,” her motion read.

With the ambitious start date, Chesebro would be arraigned in less than two weeks, according to a scheduling order from Fulton Judge Scott McAfee. The order would only apply to Chesebro, but would see his arraignment happen on Sept. 6 and put his discovery due by Sept. 20.

Chesebro’s request for a speedy trial was “the legal equivalent of throwing a bomb into the proceedings and gambling that Willis wasn’t ready,” Tamar Hallerman, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter covering the Fulton County proceedings, wrote on Twitter.

Indeed, legal experts called it a “risky gamble” that appears to have backfired after Willis showed her readiness to push ahead with a speedy trial.

The request could also leave Chesebro by himself. With Trump and most other co-defendants looking to slow things down, his push for speed puts Willis’ intention to try all 19 defendants together in question.

“Kenneth Chesebro’s asking for early trial date may undercut Trump and others’ claiming they need a super long time to prepare for trial,” tweeted Ryan Goodman, former special counsel of the Department of Defense.

Joyce Vance, former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, expressed a similar view.

Chesebro “thought he was calling Willis’ bluff on her readiness to go to trial,” she tweeted. “He was not. Willis is not here to play.”

A commenter on Vance’s tweet asked her how feasible it would be to try 19 defendants in just two months’ time.

“She would not have asked for the date if she wasn’t ready,” Vance responded.

Trump and his 18 co-defendants are accused of a litany of charges related to the alleged plot to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.

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