The star of the show was absent, but the first episode of Trump’s trial delivered plenty of drama and plenty of headlines.
In the first televised Fulton County Court hearing, prosecutors said it would take four months and at least 150 witnesses to present their case that former President Donald Trump, with 18 co-defendants, conspired to change the 2020 election results in to adulterate Georgia.
Wednesday was supposed to be the day that Trump and his 18 co-stars would march through court to hear the allegations against them and deliver their pleas in front of a live television camera.
Instead, they submitted their requests remotely to save time and money.
This meant that the afternoon in Courtroom 5a was devoted to a complex legal wrangling over how to conduct such a mammoth trial and ensure everyone was treated fairly.
Attorney Scott Grubman, defending Ken Chesebro, argues before Fulton County Chief Justice Scott McAfee. Television cameras were allowed into a hearing in one of the cases against Donald Trump for the first time in Atlanta, Georgia on Wednesday
Trump, who is pictured here in his Fulton County booking photo, pleaded not guilty in a court case and did not have to attend the hearing scheduled for Wednesday morning
Prosecutors want to bring the huge case to court as soon as possible. On Wednesday, Judge Scott McAfee asked them to detail how long it will take them in court.
“First, we will maintain that a trial of these 19 co-defendants will last four months and will not include jury selection,” said Special Counsel Nathan Wade.
“And of course it also depends on whether the defendants chose to testify or not, but our time estimate is four months.”
“Measured by the number of witnesses, the state intends to call over 150 witnesses.”
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis last month used the state’s anticrime statute to obtain a lengthy 41-count indictment, making it clear that she intends to try all 19 defendants together. But the maneuvers and delays have already begun amid bewildering legal challenges.
Your goal of October 23 already seems far-fetched.
On Wednesday, it was the turn of pro-Trump lawyers Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell to make their case for their cases being tried quickly but separately.
Others want their cases to be tried slowly but separately.
The hearing was the first under the new rules, which allowed the use of television cameras – the first time in the four trials against Trump.
Trump is charged with 18 co-defendants. Prosecutors want to act quickly and open their case on October 23. However, legal difficulties remain as some defendants say they need more time
Attorney Brian Rafferty, representing Sidney Powell, argued that her case was very different from Ken Chesebro’s and they should not be tried in the same trial
Special Counsel Nathan Wade, representing the prosecution, said it would take them four months and at least 150 witnesses to present their conspiracy case
It was to be the day that Trump and his 18 co-defendants appeared in court one by one.
Fulton County Court Judge Scott McAfee planned it all. He had scheduled court 5a hearings every 15 minutes throughout the day.
Instead, they all waived their right to a hearing and pleaded not guilty in writing. Since most live out of state, this saved them a trip and a few hours of legal fees.
Trump, like the others, has denied any wrongdoing and has denied allegations that he unlawfully attempted to reverse the Georgia election result.
Instead of a media frenzy, McAfee had to listen to the attorneys representing Chesebro and Powell as they presented their complex cases for “settlement” from each other.
Their lawyers argued that they should not be tried together as they face various charges as part of a vast alleged conspiracy.
“Based on what was presented today, I do not believe that compensation for either Mr. Chesebro or Mr. Powell is necessary to achieve a fair determination of the guilt or innocence of either defendant in this case,” said Scott McAfee
“The state wants to bring this case against Donald Trump.” “Donald Trump is one of 19 defendants,” Chesebro’s attorney said.
“Ken Chesebro is different. Ken Chesbro is not a politician.
“Six, seven months ago, he was probably unknown to 99.999 percent of the population.” Got all those nines?
“And now forcing him to sit here in a trial where there’s evidence of all these other things just isn’t fair.”
Nine attorneys from Willis’s team sat on the first long public bench in the wood-paneled courtroom to watch the argument.
Behind them sat other defense attorneys overseeing the case for their clients, and about a dozen journalists. A single television camera beamed what was happening from the corner.
The judge was not impressed by the argument to split the Chesebro and Powell cases.
“Based on what was presented today, I do not believe that compensation for either Mr. Chesebro or Mr. Powell is necessary to achieve a fair determination of the guilt or innocence of either defendant in this case,” McAfee said.
He also admitted he was skeptical that the full 19 trial could go ahead as scheduled on October 23.
Trump blacks gathered outside the courthouse ahead of Wednesday’s hearing. A small number of Trump opponents were also present and made their voices heard
Security around the courthouse was tight, even if Donald Trump failed to appear
There are questions about “removal,” he stressed, and some defendants are pushing for their cases to be taken to federal court.
“It’s not easy and we have less than two months to figure that out,” he told prosecutors. “So I think it could be risky to sort of move forward without thinking about it soon.”
The show’s star was absent after Trump declined to appear.
And he used the fact that he wasn’t there to start a fundraiser.
“Today my indictment was scheduled to take place in Atlanta,” he said in an email appeal to his supporters.
“But I refuse to be part of the left’s television spectacle as they weaponize the legal system to make me look like a criminal and list over a dozen false allegations against me on live television.”
Instead, he urged supporters to send him money.
Meanwhile, in the vast surroundings of Courtroom 5a, some of the legal arguments that could make or break his 2024 election campaign were playing out. Itoccupies a modern tower annex adjacent to the Beaux Arts Courthouse that has towered over downtown Atlanta for more than a century.
There have been a number of high-profile cases during this period.
Here Wayne Williams was convicted of murdering two men in 1981 while he was the prime suspect in the Atlanta Child Murders case that killed 22 children.
Soccer star Ray Lewis pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice after a double murder during a Super Bowl party in Atlanta in 2000.
And in 2005, Brian Nichols, who was accused of rape, kidnapping and assault, managed to overpower a police officer and confiscate her gun. He shot the judge at his trial, a court reporter, and an ICE special agent before being hunted down and recaptured.
However, none are likely to compare to the spectacle when a former president and his associates stand trial.
“This is going to be a circus like no other,” said a court clerk outside the building.