Former President Donald Trump and 16 co-defendants in the Georgia election interference case will not go to trial in October, a state judge ruled Thursday in a stunning legal loss for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.
Fulton County Superior Judge Scott McAfee ordered that the 17 defendants will not be tried alongside lawyers Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell on Oct. 23.
Judge McAfee said severing the cases was a “procedural and logistical inevitability,” adding that it was possible that “additional divisions” may be required later.
The judge’s one-page order didn’t set a new trial date for Mr. Trump or his 16 co-defendants. He did spell out a timeline that would mean they wouldn’t head to trial until at least December.
Under Judge McAfee’s order, pretrial disputes with the 17 severed cases should be resolved by the end of the year. He also ordered discovery to start by Oct. 6.
Although Judge McAfee ordered pretrial motions to be filed by Dec. 1, he did not schedule a hearing on those requests, possibly pushing back a trial until January.
Ms. Willis’ team had asked Judge McAfee to require all 19 defendants in the sprawling case to stand trial together, arguing that multiple trials would create an enormous strain on the court.
“Three or more simultaneous, high-profile trials would create a host of security issues and would create unavoidable burdens on witnesses and victims, who would be forced to testify three or more times on the same set of facts in the same case,” prosecutors in Ms. Willis’ office said in a filing this week.
Mr. Trump and the 18 other defendants have pleaded not guilty to all charges accusing them of engaging in a racketeering scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.
The former president has insisted his actions were not criminal and the investigation is politically motivated.
Although Mr. Trump sought to have his Georgia trial pushed back, the delay complicates what will be a hectic 2024 for him in the courtroom and on the campaign trail. He’s the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination.
A federal election interference case brought by special counsel Jack Smith will go to trial in early March. Another trial also is scheduled for March in a case brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, alleging that Mr. Trump engaged in a hush-money scheme to conceal damaging revelations ahead of the 2016 election.
And a criminal case alleging Mr. Trump mishandled classified documents is scheduled to begin in a Florida federal court in May.