How Trump criminal case in Georgia differs from others

August 15, 2023

Fulton County District Attorney indicted former President Trump and 18 others on 41 felonies related to Georgia’s 2020 presidential election.  

Soon after the indictment was made public, Willis announced the defendants had until noon on August 25 to “voluntarily surrender.”

Willis issued arrest warrants for each of the defendants, as opposed to a summons, meaning she can dictate the terms by which each of the defendants must turn themselves in. However, in Fulton County the surrender and the arraignment usually happen on different days, meaning there could potentially be time for Willis to allow the former President’s attorneys the opportunity to negotiate his terms of surrender.

That could potentially mean arraigning Trump somewhere other than the Fulton County Jail, or even remotely. But earlier this month, Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat said Trump, like the other defendants, would have his mugshot taken. That did not happen at any of Trump’s three previous arraignments. 

At the proceedings a judge can issue a bond if the charges don’t rise to a certain level—usually if they’re not associated with violent crimes. Trump’s team could also potentially negotiate a bond with Willis’ office ahead of arraignment. 

Of those 41 felony counts, Trump himself is facing 13 criminal counts.

The charges against Trump include violation of Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), solicitation of violation of oath by public officer, conspiracy to commit impersonating a public officer, conspiracy to commit forgery in the first degree, conspiracy to commit false statements and writings, conspiracy to commit filing false documents, and conspiracy to commit forgery in the first degree.

All 19 defendants face racketeering charges. Georgia’s RICO statute is much stricter than the federal statute, including that the state law has a five-year mandatory minimum sentence. But if found guilty, a suspect could face a maximum of 20 years in prison for each racketeering count.

Further, Trump cannot bank on a pardon, should he be convicted on any of the charges against him. Should he or another Republican become President, they would not have pardon power in a state-level case.

Further, the way that Georgia’s law is set up, no one convicted of a crime can be pardoned until they’ve served at least five years in prison.

Georgia is one of five states that does not grant pardon power to its governor. The state’s constitution gives pardon power to a five-member Board of Paroles and Pardons, none of whom have the power to grant preemptive pardons. 

The Georgia pardon application says the Board’s members will only consider an application after someone has completed a “full sentence obligation,” paid all fines, and “has been free of supervision (custodial or non-custodial) and/or criminal involvement for at least five consecutive years thereafter as well as five consecutive years immediately prior to applying.”

Meanwhile, Trump and the other defendants would almost certainly move to have the Georgia case dismissed, which would require a ruling from a Fulton County judge. Should the judge grant the request, it would be subject to appeal up the judicial system. Any other pretrial motions are subject to negotiation as well.

University of Georgia Law professor Melissa Redmon, a former Fulton County prosecutor, told local media in Atlanta, “You’ll see the pretrial motions to dismiss, and attorneys stating why the case should be dismissed, so those should be the initial motions and then if the case survives, then motions on what type of evidence is admissible or should be excluded, so then those get litigated.”

Additionally, unlike federal court in DC and New York State Supreme Court, where Trump was previously arraigned, trials in Georgia can be televised, though it’s up to the judge to decide whether there will be cameras in the courtroom.

Willis said Monday night that she is seeking a trial date in the case “within the next six months” and that she wants to try all 19 defendants together.

PHOTO: Fani Willis Monday night

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