AP

Judge overseeing Georgia election interference case dismisses some charges against Trump

Mar 13, 2024, 8:21 AM | Updated: Mar 20, 2024, 9:57 am

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FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gestures at a campaign rally, March 2, 2024, in Richmond, Va. The Supreme Court has restored Donald Trump to 2024 presidential primary ballots, rejecting state attempts to hold the Republican former president accountable for the Capitol riot. The justices ruled a day before the Super Tuesday primaries that states cannot invoke a post-Civil War constitutional provision to keep presidential candidates from appearing on ballots. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

ATLANTA (AP) — The judge overseeing the Georgia 2020 election interference case on Wednesday dismissed some of the charges against former President Donald Trump and others, but the rest of the sweeping racketeering indictment remains intact.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee quashed six counts in the indictment, including three against Trump, the presumptive 2024 Republican presidential nominee. But the judge left in place other counts — including 10 facing Trump — and said prosecutors could seek a new indictment to try to reinstate the ones he dismissed.

The ruling is a blow for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who already is facing an effort to have her removed from the prosecution over her romantic relationship with a colleague. It’s the first time charges in any of Trump’s four criminal cases have been dismissed, with the judge saying prosecutors failed to provide enough detail about the alleged crime.

The sprawling indictment charges Trump and more than a dozen other defendants with violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO. The case uses a statute normally associated with mobsters to accuse the former president, lawyers and other aides of a “criminal enterprise” to keep him in power after he lost the 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden.

Defense attorneys applauded the ruling, which came after challenges to the indictment from Trump, former New York mayor and current Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and attorneys John Eastman, Ray Smith and Robert Cheeley. They have all pleaded not guilty.

“The ruling is a correct application of the law, as the prosecution failed to make specific allegations of any alleged wrongdoing on those counts,” Trump attorney Steve Sadow said. “The entire prosecution of President Trump is political, constitutes election interference, and should be dismissed.”

Jeff DiSantis, a spokesperson for Willis, declined to comment other than to say prosecutors were reviewing the ruling.

The six challenged counts charge the defendants with soliciting public officers to violate their oaths. One count stems from a phone call Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, on Jan. 2, 2021, in which Trump urged Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes.”

Another of the dismissed counts accuses Trump of soliciting then-Georgia House Speaker David Ralston to violate his oath of office by calling a special session of the legislature to unlawfully appoint presidential electors.

McAfee said the counts did not allege sufficient detail regarding the nature of the violations.

“The lack of detail concerning an essential legal element is, in the undersigned’s opinion, fatal,” McAfee wrote. “They do not give the Defendants enough information to prepare their defenses intelligently.”

McAfee’s order leaves Meadows facing only a RICO charge. Jim Durham, a lawyer for Meadows, declined to comment. The order quashed three of 13 counts against Giuliani.

“There simply was not enough detail to put the defendants on notice of what to defend against,” Giuliani’s attorney Allyn Stockton said, adding that the ruling “effectively removes nearly 25% of the charges” against his client.

McAfee wrote that prosecutors could seek a reindictment to supplement the six dismissed counts. Even if the statute of limitations has expired, the judge gave the state six months to resubmit the case to a grand jury. Prosecutors could also ask for permission to appeal the ruling. The case has yet to be scheduled for trial.

The ruling comes as McAfee is considering a bid to have Willis disqualified from the case over what defense attorneys say is a conflict of interest due to her romantic relationship with special prosecutor Nathan Wade. McAfee is expected to rule by the end of this week on the disqualification bid, which would throw the most sprawling of the four criminal cases against Trump into question.

Willis, who has said their relationship ended months ago, has said there is no conflict of interest and no reason to remove her from the case.

The nearly 100-page Georgia indictment details dozens of alleged acts by Trump or his allies to undo his defeat, including harassing an election worker, who faced false claims of fraud, and attempting to persuade Georgia lawmakers to ignore the will of voters and appoint a new slate of Electoral College electors favorable to Trump.

Of the 19 people originally charged in the indictment, four have pleaded guilty after reaching deals with prosecutors. They include prominent Trump allies and attorneys Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro.

The Georgia case covers some of the same ground as the federal case in Washington brought by special counsel Jack Smith that charges Trump with conspiring to overturn his election loss in a desperate bid to stay in power. Trump is charged separately by Smith with hoarding classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate and thwarting government efforts to retrieve them.

Trump is scheduled to go to trial later this month in the New York case accusing him of falsifying his company’s internal records to hide the true nature of payments to a former lawyer who helped Trump bury negative stories during his 2016 presidential campaign.

___

Richer reported from Boston.

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Judge overseeing Georgia election interference case dismisses some charges against Trump