06/13/2024

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The Trump Docket: Some Georgia RICO co-defendants may be left out in the cold, fail to benefit from appeals court delay

Donald Trump does a hand motion in the main image; Fani Willis looks confused inset on the right

Main image: Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks after voting in the Florida primary election in Palm Beach, Fla., Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee). Inset right: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis looks on during a hearing on the Georgia election interference case, Friday, March, 1, 2024, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Alex Slitz, Pool).

Newly-convicted felon Donald Trump scored big this week after a judge agreed to hold off trial proceedings in Georgia while he appeals the RICO and fake electors case and a panel of judges decides whether Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis should be disqualified.

But that doesn’t mean every defendant Trump charged alongside will receive the same benefit of delay. At least, not yet.

Because several of Trump’s co-defendants did not join an appeal of an order by presiding Judge Scott McAfee that refused to disqualify Willis, their pretrial motions and hearings can continue — for now.

This group includes the newly-disbarred John Eastman; Trevian Kutti, a former publicist for rapper Kanye West who allegedly pressured election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss; Trump 2020 Georgia campaign director Ray Stallings Smith III; Georgia state senator Shawn Still; Coffee County elections director Misty Hampton; and Stephen Lee, a former police chaplain and preacher who also allegedly harassed and threatened Freeman and Moss.

But Eastman’s attorney told reporters in Fulton County this week that they welcomed the halt on the RICO case and that soon, Eastman will file an appeal on First Amendment grounds arguing it was improper of Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee to refuse to dismiss two counts of false statements against Eastman.

A stay could apply to Eastman’s case — as well as other defendants — who did not initially join the disqualification appeal but that could happen only after Fulton County prosecutors docket their appeal of an earlier ruling from McAfee that dismissed six counts in the indictment for lack of relevant details.

Law&Crime takes a look at developments in the New York case and other key developments in Florida, Georgia, and Washington, D.C.

NEW YORK

CRIMINAL

Legal analyst Kelly Hyman considered the fine line between reality and reality TV drama as Donald Trump faced the music last week when a jury convicted him of 34 counts, making him a felon and the first former president of the United States to be convicted of a crime. He is set to be sentenced on July 11.

A leader in the push to have former Vice President Mike Pence stop the certification of the 2020 election for Joe Biden, the twice-indicted John Eastman called on Trump’s legal team to file a writ of habeas corpus with the Supreme Court because of the “judicial lynching” that he said occurred at the criminal trial under acting New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan. If Trump’s lawyers didn’t take that course, Eastman hinted there could be violence born from frustration at the verdict.

Meanwhile, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg blasted Trump’s efforts to remove a gag order simply because the trial is over; Bragg says restrictions should still apply as post-trial issues are resolved.

 

CIVIL

Can’t stop, seemingly won’t stop: Trump all but dared E. Jean Carroll to sue him for a third time after he told Newsmax on Tuesday he’s “never met” the writer other than the time he was photographed meeting her.

“And I’m supposed to pay a ridiculous amount of money for a fictional story,” Trump remarked, seemingly ignoring the dual defamation defeats he has been dealt by the courts.

He owes her $91 million. 

OF NOTE: A defamation fight is still raging between Trump and ABC over George Stephanopoulos and comments the media personality made about the twice-impeached, criminally convicted presidential nominee for the Republican Party being “found liable for rape.“

Donald Trump, E. Jean Carroll

Left: Donald Trump and E. Jean Carroll meeting (photo included in Carroll’s court complaint). Right: Trump pictured in Miami on May 5, 2024 (Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via AP)

FLORIDA

CRIMINAL

The argument that special counsel Jack Smith was unlawfully appointed is “demonstrably incorrect,” according to a group of constitutional lawyers who asked presiding U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon this week to let them back Smith’s authority to prosecute the former president. She agreed on Wednesday.

An omnibus hearing originally scheduled for discussion of this matter and others including vindictive prosecution claims by Trump was to be held on June 21 but Cannon shuffled things around. The special counsel’s appointment will be debated on June 21 then on June 24, the parties will argue over appropriations for Smith followed by a motion hearing that same day on Smith’s request to modify the conditions of Trump’s pretrial release by instituting a gag order. On June 25, the court will hold a hearing on Trump’s Fourth Amendment motion for relief related to the Mar-a-Lago raid and attorney-client privilege issues.

Speaking of deadlines, Trump initially had until June 14 to oppose Smith’s request for a gag order the special counsel says is necessary to protect law enforcement. 

A question raised by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas when oral arguments were held at the high court on Trump’s immunity has crept into the filings in Florida. 

A lawyer for Trump’s co-defendant Walt Nauta apologized for blowing past a deadline involving a response to Smith’s suggestion that Nauta’s attorney Stanley Woodward may have “improperly influenced” a former client’s grand jury testimony and that there was a potential conflict due in Woodward’s representation of Trump Employee 4, who, after getting a new lawyer, “retracted his prior false testimony and provided information that implicated Nauta, De Oliveira, and Trump in efforts to delete security camera footage, as set forth in the superseding indictment.”

Cannon tut-tutted him before the apology.

Meanwhile, a court that rebuked Cannon over the special master issue in the classified documents case trashed a so-called “orchestrated campaign” to remove her after fielding “over 1,000” complaints. 

Top secret documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago appear in an evidence photo.

Federal prosecutors say FBI agents seized these materials from Mar-a-Lago. The contents of the documents were redacted with white squares. (Image via an Aug. 31, 2022 federal court filing.)

GEORGIA

CRIMINAL

The Georgia Court of Appeals paused the racketeering and fake electors case over disqualification issues surrounding Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. 

One of Trump’s co-defendants, Coffee County elections director Misty Hampton, filed a motion for stay asking the court to pause her case too since she didn’t join the appeal on the Willis’ disqualification fight.

OF NOTE: Trump’s co-defendant in the Georgia case Rudy Giuliani will be allowed to put his luxury apartment up for sale as he continues bankruptcy proceedings. Those same proceedings have led to a new subpoena for the pro-Trump outlet Newsmax. Far away from Georgia but involving some of Trump’s same co-defendants from the RICO case: Fake elector attorney Kenneth “Ken” Chesebro and former Trump 2020 campaign staffer Michael “Mike” Roman now stand accused of one count each of forgery, according to a 47-page criminal complaint filed in Wisconsin’s Dane County Circuit Court on Tuesday. Trump attorney James “Jim” Troupis was also indicted in that Wisconsin complaint. Chesebro and Roman were previously indicted in Arizona, too.

Jim Troupis, on the left; Ken Chesebro, center, Mike Roman, on the right

Left: Trump campaign attorney James Troupis speaks to Congress about election integrity in Dec. 2020 (Greg Nash/Pool via AP). Center: Lawyer Kenneth Chesebro is sworn in during a plea deal hearing, Oct. 20, 2023, at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta (Alyssa Pointer/Pool Photo via AP, File). Right: Michael Roman appears in a booking photo (Fulton County Jail)

WASHINGTON, D.C. 

SUPREME COURT

When the high court will rule on Trump’s immunity question is anybody’s guess but there are just a few weeks left in the term and the next opinion day is June 13.

Meanwhile, Justice Samuel Alito‘s upside flag controversy won’t die: his neighbor appeared on CNN this week and said Alito is either mistaken or “outright lying” about the timing of events around the scandal.

A nonpartisan watchdog group said that Justice Clarence Thomas, whose wife Ginni Thomas is a vocal supporter of Donald Trump and led efforts in the ‘Stop the Steal’ campaign, is far and away the largest recipient of gifts in the recorded history of the court.

CRIMINAL

All remains quiet in the election subversion case.

OF NOTE: Alex Jones, who marched on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, was on a podcast openly crying and declaring that he is in a “bunker” as the victims of his defamatory claims about the Sandy Hook shooting massacre seek to make good on the $1.5 billion he owes them. Trump’s onetime White House strategist, the far-right bloviator Steve Bannon was on the show with Jones and the men discussed blockading the building where Jones shoots his podcast. A bankruptcy judge in Texas agreed to let Jones continue to operate Infowars ahead of a liquidation hearing on June 14. As for Bannon, he must report to jail July 1.

Alex Jones speaks on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, as rioters breach the Capitol. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Alex Jones speaks on the East Front of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, as rioters breach the Capitol. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

The post The Trump Docket: Some Georgia RICO co-defendants may be left out in the cold, fail to benefit from appeals court delay first appeared on Law & Crime.