OPINION: Thick Trump indictment means the legal fun is just starting

Credit: NYT

Credit: NYT

As expected, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis went whole hog on Donald Trump and his crew.

A few weeks ago, special counsel Jack Smith unveiled a sparse federal indictment of Trump that focused merely on the alleged kingpin. This one includes the kitchen sink. Willis is known for her fondness for large, sprawling racketeering cases with lots of defendants and indictments that take multiple readings to absorb.

This is that, with 98 pages, 19 defendants, 41 felony counts and 161 predicate acts, which are the actions allegedly performed by the gang to get its dirty deed done: That is, weaseling Trump back into the Oval Office. A reading of it hits home, unveiling the absolute entirety of an audacious (alleged) plan.

Currently, a RICO case against Atlanta rapper Young Thug and a host of alleged associates is inching its way through the Fulton court system, still in search of 12 impartial citizens after nearly eight months. In that case, prosecutors allege the popular rapper used lyrics in his songs as a clarion call to violence.

In this one, Willis’s office is alleging that Trump, a career prevaricator, ran a “criminal, racketeering enterprise” that used bluster, intimidation and lies to defraud his way to a second term. The rogues’ gallery — of the 19 indicted and 30 unindicted co-conspirators — ranged from the septuagenarian ex-president to a bail bondsman.

As comedian D.L. Hughley suggests, we should call this one the Old Thug case.

GOP presidential aspirant Chris Christie beautifully summed up the bizarre situation saying the Republican frontrunner “is going to be out on bail in four jurisdictions.”

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Trump IV (there are also cases in New York, D.C. and Florida and, somehow, Trump merits Roman numerals) is a wide-ranging story and multi-state journey that started before the Nov. 3, 2020 election. Trump, who has long seen the law as a mere obstacle, allegedly set the scheme in October by crafting a speech where he would declare victory and then claim voter fraud.

This case is complicated, so Willis brought in RICO expert John Floyd to advise her. The allegations include: Georgia’s fake GOP electors; Trump’s “perfect” call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” him votes; a team of Trumpites heading to rural Coffee County to breach the voting software; Rudy Giuliani and others shoveling manure to legislators; and a weird little strike team being organized to harass a Fulton County poll worker.

The indictment shows a sense of creeping desperation in the Trump circle as the lies get more twisted and the conspiracies more convoluted as reality sets in.

Naturally, the stakes are high in this prosecution, so the porn-star-paying former president has been his repugnant worst through it all, calling Willis a “racist” and alleging she had “an affair with the head of the gang or a gang member.”

The charge was from Trump’s alternate universe of facts, and Willis echoed Michael Corleone from the “Godfather” when responding: “This is business, it will never be personal,” she told her staff.

Now that Willis has arguably the Most Famous Person in the World as a criminal defendant, what’s next?

Well, it seems she’s now playing with his head. She says she’s ready to go and filed a motion seeking a March 4 trial date, the day before Super Tuesday primaries.

She also has said she plans to try all 19 defendants together, although several, including Trump, will try to get their case switched to federal court where they’d likely see a less Democratic-leaning jury.

I called defense attorney Jay Abt, who represents Deamonte Kendrick, AKA the rapper Yak Gotti, in the ongoing RICO case in Fulton courts. I asked how it was going.

Credit: Michael Blackshire

Credit: Michael Blackshire

“The judge has decided to go as slow and cumbersome and inefficiently as humanly possible,” he said, quickly adding he has “tremendous respect” for Chief Judge Ural Glanville, who is “patient, fair and smart.”

The case originally had 28 defendants and is now down to eight. But it gets bogged down when each potential juror or witness is grilled by multiple defense lawyers and the prosecution keeps objecting to their questions.

Abt figures the Young Thug case will go on for another year and cannot imagine how the courthouse and the Fulton judicial system can handle an even bigger blockbuster case at the same time.

“That case will just have to wait,” he said.

Buddy Parker, a former federal prosecutor who has waged several RICO cases, said a large case loaded with defendants and charges is a double-edged sword. There are many details for defense attorneys to attack and if some allegations are in doubt, then other parts of the case will suffer, too.

“However, if you prove those facts, the jury has little to debate,” he said.

Danny Porter, the former district attorney in Gwinnett County, said he stayed clear of RICO because “those cases add unnecessary complexity. But in this case, with all the jurisdictions, I think RICO was her only choice.”

Porter said he would not worry about Trump trying to get his case moved to federal court or if the judge severs some defendants to have a more manageable trial.

“If I had the case, I wouldn’t hesitate,” Porter said. “He’s just a defendant at this point.”