Fulton County Judge Scott McAfee handed down the decision after more than 90 minutes of arguments from prosecutors and defense counsel. The ruling is a win for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, and means Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell will be tried together, beginning Oct. 23.
Being yoked to Powell is a potential “nightmare scenario” for Chesebro, according to former Department of Defense special counsel Ryan Goodman. But the pair are now “hurtling forward” toward trial, McAfee said as he set new deadlines and scheduling orders.
Chesebro is accused of masterminding the “crazy” fake electors scheme to keep Trump in the Oval Office after the president lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden. He recently invoked his constitutional right to a speedy trial, which, as one former federal prosecutor told The Daily Beast, appeared to be a risky attempt to catch Willis unprepared.
Powell quickly followed suit, aping Chesebro’s motion to get on with things forthwith. Willis didn’t blink, forging ahead and securing a trial date just a month-and-change away.
Since then, Chesebro has done his best to sever his case from Powell, who has been called “a complete nut,” a “lunatic,” and “a fucking nutcase.” The so-called Kraken lawyer is accused of being involved in a breach of voting machines in Coffee County, Georgia—a component of the alleged criminal enterprise that Chesebro’s attorneys say had nothing to do with him.
In court on Wednesday, Chesebro’s attorney asked McAfee why Chesebro should “have to deal with a jury who’s going to sit there for weeks, if not months, and listen to all of this evidence related to Coffee County and Ms. Powell?”
“He’s never been there. He’s never met Ms. Powell. He’s never emailed, texted, or called her; he’s never spoken with her, directly or indirectly.”
Powell’s legal team also tried to separate their client from Chesebro, telling the judge that the two never overlapped during Trump’s audacious but ultimately doomed attempt to cling to power.
“My client doesn’t know Mr. Chesebro, has never met him, has never really spoken with him,” Powell’s co-counsel insisted. “There’s no emails, or documents, or anything else [between them]. What he’s accused of has absolutely nothing to do with Ms. Powell at all.”
Prosecutors, however, argued that Chesebro, Powell, Trump, and their 16 other co-defendants are all part of one massive conspiracy, hence the RICO charges they now face together. Further, conducting multiple parallel trials would create severe logistical issues. As it stands, Fulton County prosecutors say trying all 19 defendants will take at least four months, not including jury selection. The state will call more than 150 individual witnesses, they told McAfee on Wednesday.
In a post-hearing wrap-up on MSNBC, former federal prosecutor Harry Litman discussed the defense teams’ unsuccessful attempt to recast the underlying conspiracy allegations as pertaining to a hodgepodge of wholly separate actions.
“Basically the defense tried to re-characterize this single RICO case as multiple conspiracies, some of which apply to some and others to others,” Litman said. “And the state came back and the judge accepted the position, no, this is a single sprawling case and therefore the law and evidence are the same.”
Still, Chesebro’s team tried and tried again to create as much space as possible between their client and Powell, attempting to paint a picture of a man they said “is not a politician,” and that until six or seven months ago, “was probably unknown to 99.9999 percent of the population… And so now to force him to sit here in a trial where there’s evidence of all these other things, it’s just not fair.”
McAfee, for his part, dashed those hopes in a single sentence.
“Based on what’s been presented today,” he said, “I am not finding that severance from Mr. Chesebro or Ms. Powell is necessary to achieve a fair determination of the guilt or innocence for either defendant.”
While Chesebro and Powell are now inextricably entwined, it remains to be seen if all 19 co-defendants will stand trial together in October. Prosecutors are set to brief McAfee on the issue next week.