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Georgia judge upholds indictment against Trump in 2020 election interference case – JURIST

Apr 4, 2024 | Legal News | 0 comments

The Georgia judge overseeing former president Donald Trump’s 2020 state election interference case upheld the criminal indictment underlying the case on Thursday. Trump’s legal team had argued that his actions during the certification of the 2020 presidential election amounted to protected speech under the US Constitution’s First Amendment. However, on Thursday, Judge Scott McAfee rejected Trump’s claim.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis charged Trump and over a dozen of other co-defendants with various offenses, including charges related to false statements and impersonation of public officials. Trump faces ten charges, himself. In attempting to get the judge to dismiss those charges, Trump’s legal team argued his actions underlying the ten charges amounted to political speech, which is protected by the First Amendment. They, therefore, cannot be prosecuted for “falsity alone.” Trump’s legal team argued, “Take out the protected speech, and you don’t have an underlying basis for which to charge [Trump].”

McAfee, however, rejected Trump’s arguments. McAfee found, “[T]he law does not insulate speech allegedly made during fraudulent or criminal conduct from prosecution under the guise of petitioning the government.” McAfee went on to say, “Even core political speech addressing matters of public concern is not impenetrable from prosecution if allegedly used to further criminal activity.” McAfee ultimately found that such actions and speech are not protected if they are undertaken “knowingly and willingly” in furtherance of criminal activity.

In response to the ruling, Trump legal counsel Steve Sadow said:

[We] respectfully disagree with Judge McAfee’s order…and will continue to evaluate [our] options regarding the First Amendment challenges. It is significant that the court’s ruling was without prejudice, as it made clear that defendants were not foreclosed from again raising their “as-applied challenges at the appropriate time after the establishment of a factual record.”

The ruling means the case against Trump and his 14 remaining co-defendants may proceed. McAfee recently dropped three of the 13 offenses he was originally charged with for “lack of detail.” Willis, who recently survived an attempt to remove her from the case, declined to comment on the Thursday ruling.

The timeline for this case is still unclear, as no concrete trial date has been selected yet. Trump also faces several other cases, with another criminal case in New York set to begin on April 15.

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