Former President Donald Trump says he will voluntarily surrender on Thursday at Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, where he faces 13 felony counts related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in the state of Georgia.
Trump is currently the front-runner for the Republican Party’s nomination for the 2024 presidential election. He says he will skip the first Republican primary debate and instead make an appearance in Georgia the day after.
Defendant John Eastman surrendered himself on Tuesday. By Friday at noon, the remaining 18 defendants involved in Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ extensive criminal case must present themselves for the purpose of being registered. He is among the masterminds of the lawful strategy aimed at retaining Trump’s authority.
Sheriff Pat Labat of Fulton County recently informed journalists, stating, “Irrespective of your societal position, we will have a portrait of your countenance arranged for you.”
In Fulton County, a reservation appearance is distinct from an arraignment, where a defendant presents a plea regarding their charges.
According to Bob Rubin, a defense lawyer specializing in criminal cases in Decatur, Georgia, the conditions of release on bond will be prearranged to ensure that the majority of the 19 defendants do not have to endure a lengthy stay in jail while waiting for their hearing.
On Monday, a judge approved an agreement between prosecutors and Trump’s attorneys to establish a bail amount of $200,000.
When evaluating bond conditions, Rubin suggests that factors similar to the defendant’s, such as engaging in another criminal offense, coercing witnesses, probability of fleeing, and risk to the community, should be considered.
Besides his attorney, Trump is prohibited from conversing with any co-defendants regarding the details of the lawsuit. In addition to social media, Trump’s bond arrangement necessitates that he abstain from harassing co-defendants or witnesses.
Rubin expresses, “I am confident that the sheriff’s office will exert utmost effort to separate them from other potentially harmful inmates. It would create a negative perception if anyone were to be harmed in this correctional facility, hence they will ensure the safety of all individuals, despite claiming equal treatment for everyone.”
The Fulton County Jail, also known as Rice Street Jail, is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for potential civil rights violations.
Seven individuals have passed away while being held in custody at that location since the beginning of this year.
Sheriff Labat says that the Fulton County sheriff has pledged to cooperate with the federal investigation and that it reinforces his calls for a new jail.
In July, he stated, “I have repeatedly raised concerns privately and publicly about the critical shortage of staff in jails and the dilapidated infrastructure, which has led to dangerous overcrowding.”
This month, the county reached a settlement with the family of Thompson Lashawn, who was found covered in bedbugs in the psychiatric wing of the jail last year, after an independent autopsy was commissioned and he died neglected by his family.
Rubin, who has two clients who have been imprisoned in the jail for over two years pending trial, declares, “In numerous sections of the Fulton County Jail, it resembles a Third World country.”
Rubin states that he occasionally experiences nightmares, which depict an exceedingly dreadful environment. The correctional facility harbors individuals who pose a threat, and there are concerns regarding limited space and access to water. Unsurprisingly, the jail emits an unpleasant odor and maintains a cold temperature. Additionally, there is an absence of a recreational area and natural light, depriving the inmates of any chance to venture outdoors.
As per the Justice Department, the overwhelming majority have not been found guilty, and eighty-seven percent of the prison populace is comprised of individuals of Black ethnicity. Due to their inability to afford bail, the majority are currently awaiting bail hearings or competency evaluations, or are being denied release while awaiting trial.
What’s the next step in the criminal case involving Trump?
Willis, the district attorney, is seeking a March 4 trial date for the criminal case, requesting it against Trump and 18 other individuals.
The proposed scheduling order would arrange for arraignments to take place in the week of September 5, 2024, with the trial set to begin six months later, in the week following Georgia’s primary presidential election.
“I simply believe, in practical terms, that is unlikely to occur,” states Jeffrey Brickman, a lawyer specializing in criminal defense in Atlanta.
Judge Scott McAfee of Fulton Superior Court has been assigned the case and will determine the final schedule.
Since February, Brian Kemp, the Republican Governor who appointed McAfee, has been juggling scheduling for the criminal proceedings of the other three defendants and their lawyers, as well as facing Trump on the bench.
McAfee additionally requires to allocate time within his personal schedule, and Brickman indicates that Fulton County already possesses a significant backlog of cases.
Brickman asserts, “It merely requires a substantial amount of time, and I personally believe that [Willis’ timeframe] is overly optimistic.” “This is not a debate concerning individuals attempting to exploit the system and prolong the process solely for the sake of prolonging it.”
Other factors, such as the protracted efforts by Trump and the jury selection, may slow down the case and move it out of Fulton Superior Court and into federal court.
Brickman asserts, ‘The extensive publicity surrounding this case implies that the process of selecting a jury will be significantly prolonged.’ ‘Consequently, it is plausible that this endeavor could span several months,’ states a group of nineteen attorneys who have the opportunity to interrogate a single juror.
Transfer to a federal court
Trump is anticipated to perform the identical action. One accused individual, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, has already submitted a request to transfer his case to a federal court.
The federal court system allows federal officers to remove some criminal prosecutions brought by states because of a provision in federal law.
According to Jonathan Nash, a law professor at Emory University, the mechanism of prosecuting and suing federal officials for their duties led to an onslaught of lawsuits and prosecutions during the War of 1812 and early 19th century, causing resentment towards the federal government and its taxation.
The concern was that if states were allowed to bring criminal prosecutions, it could really interfere with federal officials’ ability to do their jobs, said he.
According to Nash, there is precedent in federal court for the removal of a defendant based on three basic requirements. Firstly, the defendant must have held a position as a federal officer. Secondly, they must be facing prosecution for actions carried out under the “color of office.” Lastly, their legal defense must somehow depend on federal law.
“Nash says that Meadows’ request to dismiss the case has some merit. I certainly don’t see it as filing any kind of frivolous motion. He makes some arguments that make sense.”
If these motions are successful, a federal judge would oversee the proceedings, while state laws would remain in question and the case would still be handled by the Fulton County district attorney’s office.
That could potentially be U.S. District Judge Steve Jones, who has scheduled an Aug. 28 hearing on Meadows’ request.
The jury for the Northern District of Georgia’s U.S. District Court, Division Atlanta, would not solely come from Fulton County, but also from some exurban counties that lean more towards the Republican party compared to Fulton County.
Georgia’s independent review board has the authority to evaluate pardons, allowing for a review of convictions after five years of sentence completion. However, it is important to note that these pardons are not eligible for presidential pardon.