Judge rejects request to dismiss charges against Chesebro, Powell

McAfee also rejects request to exclude key evidence in election trial

A judge has rejected requests to dismiss charges against two defendants in the Fulton County election interference investigation, appearing to clear the way for their trial to begin later this week.

Attorneys Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell had asked Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee to dismiss the racketeering and other charges filed against them for numerous reasons. In orders issued Tuesday and Wednesday, McAfee rejected those requests.

In one order made public late Wednesday, McAfee also rejected Chesebro’s request to exclude from the trial key evidence in the case - memos in which Chesebro outlined how the Trump campaign could use Republican electors in states Biden won to help overturn the election. Chesebro argued they should be excluded because they are protected by attorney-client privilege. But in his ruling, the judge rejected that defense, saying the memos are not subject to protection because there is some basis to believe they were used in the commission of a crime.

Though not a determination of guilt, McAfee’s ruling on the memos indicates he believes there is some evidence that Chesebro committed a crime.

Jury selection is set to begin Friday in the case.

Chesebro and Powell are two of the 19 people charged with aiding former President Donald Trump’s allegedly illegal scheme to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in Georgia. Both sought speedy trials under Georgia law, and their cases will be tried separately from the other defendants.

Chesebro was one of the authors of Trump’s plan to use Republican electors to overturn the election in the General Assembly and in Congress. The electors met to cast their ballots for Trump even as Georgia’s official electors voted for Biden. The Republicans later submitted paperwork claiming to be the state’s official electors.

Chesebro faces seven felony charges, including racketeering and conspiracy to commit filing false documents.

Powell is charged for her alleged role in a Coffee County election system data breach. In January 2021 a team from an Atlanta tech company “stole data, including ballot images, voting equipment software and personal voter information,” according to the Fulton County indictment.

Court records show the tech firm kept Powell informed of its progress and billed her for the Coffee operation. She faces seven charges, including racketeering and conspiracy to commit election fraud.

Both defendants have pleaded not guilty. In court filings and a recent hearing, they argued the charges were defective for a variety of reasons and must be dismissed before the trial.

In a ruling Tuesday, McAfee found the charges were not defective on their face. And though the defendants argued the facts of the case showed they did nothing wrong, the judge wrote that such determinations should be made during the trial.

For example, Chesebro argued that one charge against him – conspiracy to commit impersonating a public officer – was improper because the Republican electors were, in fact, electors under federal law but never claimed to be Georgia’s certified presidential electors.

McAfee rejected the argument.

“The defendant obviously does not agree with the state’s legal interpretation of whether this conduct was false, but this dispute does not make the indictment defective,” the judge wrote.