Trump may ask to move his Georgia case to federal court

AJC data analysis shows jury pool would be be slightly more Republican leaning

Credit: NYT

Credit: NYT

Donald Trump on Thursday said he may ask for his Georgia prosecution on racketeering and other charges to be moved to federal court.

Such a step has long been expected, but the single-page filing from his Atlanta attorney, Steve Sadow, was the clearest signal yet that the former president will follow in the footsteps of his onetime chief of staff and four other co-defendants in seeking to transfer out of Fulton County Superior Court.

Some of the 19 defendants in the Georgia election subversion case are hoping that U.S. District Court court will be a friendlier venue for claims of federal immunity and will also provide a broader — and slightly more politically conservative — jury pool.

In Fulton County, Trump won less than 27% of the vote in 2020. A federal case would pull from a 10-county division made up of Atlanta and its suburbs. There, Trump won a little more than 33% of the vote, according to an analysis of 2020 voting data by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In rare instances, jurors may be culled from an entire federal judicial district. That happened in the 2021 hate crimes trial of three men convicted of killing of Ahmaud Arbery. Due to intense publicity, jurors were selected from the entire Southern District of Georgia, a federal jurisdiction composed of 43 counties. The move was supported by the prosecution and the defense.

In the 46 counties that make up the whole Northern District of Georgia, Trump earned 46% of the 2020 vote, the AJC found.

During a trial, juries must be unanimous to convict a person of a crime. Adding jurors from more Trump-friendly areas increases the likelihood that there could be more holdouts, given Trump’s deep popularity among many conservatives.

Whether any of the cases will be moved to federal court is an open question.

To do so, defendants must show they were federal officers performing federal duties. They also must raise a plausible federal defense.

A ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Steve Jones is expected any day on the first request, which came from Mark Meadows. At an Aug. 28 hearing, Meadows testified that all his actions listed in the indictment were performed in his capacity as White House chief of staff.

Others who have filed to have their cases removed to federal court are Jeffrey Clark, a former top official with the U.S. Department of Justice; ex-state Republican Party Chairman David Shafer; state Sen. Shawn Still; and former Coffee County GOP chairwoman Cathy Latham.

In his filing Thursday, Sadow said his client must formally request the move within 30 days of his Aug. 31 waiver of arraignment.

-AJC Digital Storytelling Editor Charles Minshew contributed to this report