Around noon on Monday, a document laying out more than a dozen felony charges against the former president was briefly posted on the Fulton County court website and then quickly taken down -- but not before it was published by Reuters. The document was nearly identical to the indictment filed later that night and outlined 13 charges against Trump, including racketeering, filing false documents and various conspiracy charges.
There is no evidence the grand jury process was compromised.
“Upon learning of the mishap,” Alexander’s office said, she “immediately removed the document and issued correspondence notifying the media that a fictitious document was in circulation and that no indictment had been returned by the Grand Jury.”
The apparent mistake was an embarrassment for the clerk’s office and opened Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ office to further criticism from the former president and his allies.
But while the erroneously published document may lend well to political talking points, legal experts see little to no ramifications for his sprawling racketeering case.
“I don’t expect any legal ramifications,” said former longtime Fulton County prosecutor Clint Rucker. “It’s a difficult thing to prove that he was prejudiced by the leak.”
Even so, Trump’s legal team and the former president’s supporters piled onto what they characterized as leak in his defense, casting it as a violation of the former president’s constitutional rights and as evidence of malfeasance by prosecutors.
“The events that have unfolded today have been shocking and absurd, starting with the leak of a presumed and premature indictment before the witnesses had testified or the grand jurors had deliberated and ending with the District Attorney being unable to offer any explanation,” lawyers Drew Findling, Jennifer Little and Marissa Goldberg said in a statement after the indictment was released.
Vivek Ramaswamy, who is running against Trump in the Republican presidential primary, cast the Fulton indictment as “disastrous” and recommended that Trump’s legal team ask the judge to dismiss the case on the grounds that the former president’s due process was violated.
“He should make a strong argument on these grounds & it would send a powerful message to the ever-expansive prosecutorial police,” he wrote on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter.
Atlanta defense attorney Lawrence Zimmerman noted that even if it was a test run, it is still odd that the charges were identical to those that were ultimately filed. He added it could be a problem for Willis’ office if the clerk got the draft indictment ahead of time. But even so, it’s unclear how serious it would be, he said.
“I have prosecutors send me drafts of indictments they’re going to file, albeit it’s for my client,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman said Trump’s legal team will likely investigate the episode to see if they can gain leverage, but he doesn’t anticipate it will have any material effect on the case. In a hypothetical situation in which Trump’s lawyers quash the indictment because of the release, Willis’ office could simply indict Trump again, he added:
“I don’t think there’s a legal issue to pursue.”
--Reporter Chris Joyner contributed reporting to this story.