Here is some of the legal news making the headlines this week:
Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis asked a judge to schedule a March 2024 trial date for former President Donald Trump’s criminal case in Georgia.
- On Monday, a Fulton County grand jury indicted Trump and 18 others, including former top Trump aides Rudy Giuliani, Mark Meadows, and Jeffrey Clark, for their involvement in an alleged scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. All defendants are facing a racketeering charge, among other charges. Trump is facing 12 other counts, including making false statements, soliciting a public officer to violate their oath, and conspiring to impersonate a public officer. Other defendants are facing charges that include conspiring to commit election fraud, attempting to influence a witness, and conspiring to commit computer crimes.
- DA Willis has given all defendants until next Friday, August 25, to voluntarily surrender for processing. In a new court filing, Willis asked to schedule their arraignments during the week of September 5. Willis also requested that the trial start on March 4, 2024. The District Attorney wrote that she devised these proposals “[i]n light of Defendant Donald John Trump’s other criminal and civil matters pending in the courts of our sister sovereigns.”
- Meanwhile, Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, has requested to move his case to federal district court in Georgia, in the first step of his bid to seek a dismissal of the charges. According to his court filing, “Nothing Mr. Meadows is alleged in the indictment to have done is criminal per se…This is precisely the kind of state interference in a federal official’s duties that the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits, and that the removal statute shields against.” If Meadows is successful in his effort to move the case to federal court, he will then argue that he is immune from prosecution as a federal official who was carrying out his duties.
Federal prosecutors indicated that Hunter Biden’s criminal case is likely to proceed to trial after his plea deal fell apart.
- In June, federal prosecutors charged Hunter Biden with two misdemeanor counts of failing to pay his 2017 and 2018 taxes. Separately, he was facing a potential charge for possessing a firearm while unlawfully using a controlled substance. Last month, Hunter Biden appeared in court prepared to plead guilty to the tax charges and enter into a diversion agreement on the gun charge, but a federal judge put the arrangement on hold due to legal and constitutional concerns.
- After weeks of apparent negotiations, prosecutors said, in a court filing, that they reached an impasse, writing that “The Government now believes that the case will not resolve short of a trial.” U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware David Weiss, who was appointed by then-President Trump and has been overseeing the Hunter Biden probe for years, recently asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to appoint him as special counsel for the investigation. Garland did so last week.
- In a separate court filing, Hunter Biden’s legal team accused Weiss of reneging on the deal. According to the Biden legal team, at a minimum, the diversion agreement is still in effect since Hunter Biden signed and agreed to the terms of that arrangement. In addition, Hunter Biden’s lawyers wrote, “The Defendant’s understanding of the scope of immunity agreed to by the United States was and is based on the express written terms of the Diversion Agreement. His understanding of the scope of immunity agreed to by the United States is also corroborated by prosecutors’ contemporaneous written and oral communications during the plea negotiations.” In response, special counsel Weiss said that all agreements are invalid.
- Also this week, Christopher Clark, Hunter Biden’s lead attorney, stepped down from the case because he expects to be a witness at the anticipated trial. A lawyer for Clark wrote that “Based on recent developments, it appears that the negotiation and drafting of the plea agreement and diversion agreement will be contested, and Mr. Clark is a percipient witness to those issues. Under the ‘witness-advocate’ rule, it is inadvisable for Mr. Clark to continue as counsel in this case.”
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