It was 8:30 a.m. when the doors at the Fulton County courthouse were unlocked. Already Monday’s temperature was climbing. A dense blanket of humidity had settled over the city, and a crowd of sweaty TV crews and reporters had set up on the pavement across the street. Orange barricades lined the building.

Inside, 23 Fulton County residents settled into three rows of gray swiveling chairs in the grand jury room on the third floor. They had been meeting together since early July, handing up dozens of commonplace criminal indictments. But today would be different.

On the glass walkway that led to the courthouse, former state Rep. Bee Nguyen hurried by with her lawyer, declining to answer reporters’ shouted questions. Ex-state Sen. Jen Jordan was spotted. So was Gabe Sterling, a top deputy in the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. The Republican, with his distinctive mop of silver hair, had been a fixture on television in the weeks after the 2020 election batting back conspiracy theories. But today the University of Georgia alum tried to avoid detection by arriving in an SUV with an Auburn University sticker, and he power walked past an inquiring journalist.

The State of Georgia v. Donald John Trump had begun.

For 2½ years Fulton County District Attorney Fani WiIlis and her team had been methodically building a case. Now they were presenting their best evidence to a grand jury in hopes of winning indictments. Much later that day, it would become clear to those beyond the DA’s inner circle just how broad a net had been cast.

Minute by minute: Revisit key moments from Georgia Indictment Day from the AJC live blog

‘Wrong floor, brother’

In the courthouse, journalists wandered the halls looking for clues. When an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter ventured to the third floor lobby in the hopes of spotting witnesses, he was immediately greeted by a courthouse deputy who barked, “Wrong floor, brother!”

Outside, about 20 people protesting the proposed Atlanta police training center marched in a circle holding signs and chanting “Cop city will never be built!” They pushed through a sea of reporters and law enforcement officers before being asked to relocate to a different city block.

August 14, 2023 Atlanta: On Monday, Aug. 14, 2023 Television crews lined up along Pryror Street as sheriff’s cruisers and deputies on motorcycles were blocking the entrances to Pryor Street in the block in front of the Fulton County courthouse entrance where the case against former president, Donald Trump and others were presented before the grand jury. Outside an encampment of television news crews in their tents were doing their updates and reports from the street. Officials have tightened security in recent weeks, installing orange barricades and metal fencing and shutting down streets surrounding the courthouse to traffic and parking. Sheriff Pat Labat declined to provide any further details on his agency’s security plan, telling reporters “we look forward to the opportunity to show the world that we are ready.”  (John Spink /

Credit: John Spink

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Credit: John Spink

But that was only a momentary distraction compared to what came next. Around midday, a Reuters reporter tweeted that the state of Georgia had filed legal action against Trump. The news spread like a firestorm across social media and prompted a group of reporters to sprint through the courthouse lobby toward the fifth-floor office of Fulton Clerk Ché Alexander, who is tasked with uploading court records, to figure out whether it was authentic.

Willis’ office quickly shot down the notion that the grand jury had voted on any indictments, and the reporter deleted his post. But soon after, Reuters posted a screen shot of an official-looking yet unstamped document that had briefly appeared on the Fulton court’s online system before being removed. Entitled “The State of Georgia VS DONALD JOHN TRUMP,” it listed 13 felony charges for the former president, including violation of the state Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

Alexander didn’t issue an official response until hours later, when she acknowledged that a “fictitious document” had been circulating online. In a subsequent interview with Channel 2 Action News, Alexander said she accidentally published a sample document while testing out her office’s system to ensure it could handle the expected indictments.

“I am human,” she told the station.

The story about the document took off among Trump allies, some of whom alleged a plot against the former president. Evidence of such a scheme hasn’t materialized and prosecutors routinely pre-draft indictments before a grand jury acts on them. Regardless, the charges included in that sample document would mirror those that were ultimately handed up by the grand jury.

Picking up the pace

Inside the building, it was growing increasingly clear that Willis’ team was moving at a rapid clip.

The grand jury had been widely expected to vote on indictments on Tuesday. That’s because two witnesses, former Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and independent journalist George Chidi, had previously confirmed they would be testifying on Tuesday morning. And two previous large racketeering cases that Willis had prosecuted each took about two days to present to a grand jury.

But by early afternoon on Monday, both Chidi and Duncan confirmed they had been told to report to the courthouse within the next few hours.

The news media was growing antsy. A growing group began to congregate in the eighth floor courtroom of Robert McBurney, the presiding judge for the week who would receive any indictments handed up by the grand jury. Anxious for any signs of the grand jury’s progress — the DA’s office was staying quiet — the journalists turned their attention to a singular social media account.

Chidi, apparently sitting outside the grand jury room waiting for his turn to testify, was posting a stream of musings on X, the site formerly known as Twitter.

“Lots of bow ties in this building. I only try that in a tux,” Chidi wrote. “I have a ticket to see ‘Oppenheimer’ tonight. I thought I’d be safe at a 11 p.m. showing. Fingers crossed.”

Independent journalist George Chidi speaks to members of the media as he leaves the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta on Monday, August 14, 2023. Fulton prosecutors are presenting their election interference case against former President Donald Trump and others to a grand jury. (Jason Getz /


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The outspoken journalist, who publishes the online newsletter “The Atlanta Objective” and is an AJC alum, had been subpoenaed to testify about his experience stumbling upon the meeting of “alternate” Republican electors at the Georgia statehouse on Dec. 14, 2020. Chidi wasn’t happy about his summons — journalists typically try to avoid personal involvement in government proceedings — but he said “the specific situation here makes the defense of democracy a larger consideration.”

Chidi’s posts oscillated between the informative ― he noted at one point that Duncan was waiting with him and suggested that other witnesses unknown to the public were also nearby — and the cheeky. At 7:20 p.m., he noted that Willis had walked by with her shoes off. Five minutes later, he expressed his mortification for sharing the detail online after the DA had put her pumps back on, possibly in response to his post.

“I suck,” said Chidi.

Waiting journalists chuckled but also hung on his words as one of the only windows into what was happening inside the DA’s office.

‘The convoy is mobile’

Signs were mounting that it would be a late night. McBurney periodically popped his head into the courtroom to acknowledge that he was also waiting. At one point he handed out potato chips. Some hungry journalists wandered down to the building’s vending machines to scrape together something resembling a dinner, while others helped themselves to slices of leftover pizza ordered by the BBC.

A few minutes before 8 p.m. came a sign. Chidi tweeted that the jury was deliberating and that prosecutors might not need his testimony after all. About 45 minutes later, McBurney took a seat and noted that the “convoy is mobile,” meaning a group of people were on their way to deliver the grand jury’s indictment decisions.

Alexander, the court clerk, walked toward McBurney’s room carrying a stack of papers. As she made her way down the hallway, she was flanked by several Fulton deputies and a television news camera. Reporters, eager to learn whether the grand jury voted for a “true bill” or a “no bill” of indictment, peppered her with questions. She didn’t answer.

Alexander was joined in McBurney’s courtroom by De Andre Royals, the senior assistant DA who helped oversee the grand jury presentation.

After hours of grand jury testimony Monday, Aug. 14, 2023, Fulton County Clerk Ché Alexander received a copy of the indictment from Judge Robert McBurney. The clerk said the indictment results would be made public in three hours or fewer. (Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

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Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

“Mr. Royals, everything went as it should have in front of the grand jury?” McBurney asked. “Ms. Alexander, are you prepared to... maintain custody of it from here?”

Royals and Alexander said yes. McBurney looked through the papers, signed them and handed them to Alexander. The exchange was over within two minutes. After Alexander, Royals and the deputies exited, McBurney quickly dismissed everyone from his courtroom — without disclosing whether the grand jury had voted to indict or not.

Alexander was swarmed as she returned to the elevator and made her way back to her office.

“How many indictments were handed up?” journalists asked.

Alexander replied there were 10, though it was unclear exactly what she meant. Were 10 people indicted in the Trump case? Were there a total of 10 charges? Or did the grand jury hand up 10 indictments that day, some of them unrelated to Trump?

As reporters scrambled to find out whether or not the former president had been charged, Alexander gave a possible timeline for when the world would know.

“Worst case scenario: three hours,” she said.

True Bill

Some journalists accompanied Alexander back to her office, where she personally processed the paperwork into Fulton’s arcane online system. Others rushed across the street to the Fulton Government Center, where Willis was expected to speak after the documents were released. Exhausted journalists slumped on the floor, their backs against the windows, sipping coffees as broadcasters reported live from mere feet away.

Ten minutes after reporters began filing into the newly painted blue room where Willis was set to hold her press conference, the indictments popped up on the Fulton clerk’s website. The room grew quiet as several dozen pairs of eyes skimmed as much of it as they could before the DA and her team filed into the room just after 11:30 p.m. It was a true bill. Trump and 18 others had been indicted.

“Thank you for joining us,” said Willis, taking a breath and gazing out at the cameras.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks at a press conference at Fulton County Government Center in Atlanta on Monday, August 14, 2023, following the indictment in an election interference case against former President Donald Trump and others. (Arvin Temkar /


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