Trump pleads not guilty, says he can’t be ready for trial in October

Former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty on Thursday to the 13 criminal charges recently handed up against him by a Fulton County grand jury and also a asked a judge to delay his trial until after the Oct. 23 start date set for at least one of his co-defendants.

The flurry of legal action came in in a pair of brief court filings from his new lead Atlanta attorney, Steve Sadow.

In asking for Trump’s case to be severed from that of lawyer Kenneth Chesebro, who has demanded a speedy trial, Sadow said that he is already committed to another two-to-three week trial taking place in Florida during that window. He also said he did not have enough time to prepare.

Having less than two months to mount a defense against 98-page indictment charging 19 defendants with 41 charges, “would violate President Trump’s federal and state constitutional rights to a fair trial and due process of law,” Sadow wrote.

In addition to Chesebro, Sidney Powell has also requested a speedy trial, although the judge has yet to set a date for hers.

Separately, Trump also acknowledged on Thursday that he is waiving his right to an arraignment, which had been set for next week.

“Understanding my rights, I do hereby freely and voluntarily waive my right to be present at my arraignment on the indictment and my right to have it read to me in open court,” Trump stated in the document.

That means Trump will not be returning to Atlanta Wednesday to formally hear the charges approved by 23 jurors earlier this month. He surrendered at the Fulton County jail a week ago on a $200,000 bond and had his photograph taken for a historic mug shot that was shared widely across social media.

Credit: Fulton County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Fulton County Sheriff's Office

Arraignments are when defendants appear before a judge for the first time to formally hear the charges against them and enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. The process is designed, in part, to ensure the defendant knows his or her rights. Judges often set additional court dates at arraignments, such as deadlines for pretrial motions and a trial date.

In Georgia, defendants can waive arraignments. Trump’s decision to do so was widely expected.

Fulton Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee scheduled arraignments for all 19 defendants in the election interference case in 15-minute increments on Wednesday.

Most of the defendants, particularly those who live out of state, are expected to follow Trump’s lead. Several, including Powell, Jenna Ellis, Ray Smith and Trevian Kutti, have already waived their arraignments and pleaded not guilty.

Trump was indicted on 13 charges — including racketeering, criminal solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer, conspiracy, filing false documents and false statements and writings — in connection with his efforts to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results.

Under the terms of Trump’s bond agreement, he can’t perform any acts of witness intimidation or communicate directly or indirectly about the facts of the case with any co-defendants except through his lawyers.

He also can’t make a “direct or indirect threat of any nature” against any witness or against the 30 unindicted co-conspirators named in the indictment. He also can make no threat “against the community or to any property in the community.” And, likely in light of his highly critical posts on Truth Social, the above conditions “shall include, but are not limited to, posts on social media or re-posts of posts made by another individual on social media.”

In the weeks ahead, the Fulton DA’s office will also be handing over its first batch of discovery documents to the 19 defendants.

In a recent court filing, Willis’ office said it notified every defense attorney to provide a USB drive by Sept. 5 that is at least 2 terabytes — large enough to store hundreds of thousands of documents — for copying of the initial batch of discovery.

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez