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Nevada fake electors plead not guilty to state charges

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump speaks during a rally Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, in Fort Dodge, Iowa. (AP Photo/Bryon Houlgrave)

(CNN) — The six Nevada Republicans who served as “fake electors” for the Trump campaign in 2020 pleaded not guilty Monday to state charges.

The defendants were arraigned in Clark County District Court, making their first court appearance two weeks after they were indicted by Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford. The defendants participated virtually, while Ford, a Democrat, attended the hearing in-person with some of his fellow prosecutors.

Judge Mary Kay Holthus scheduled their trials to begin on March 11.

The defendants are Nevada GOP chairman Michael McDonald; Nevada GOP vice chairs James DeGraffenreid and Durward Hindle; Clark County GOP chairman Jesse Law; and Douglas County GOP officials Shawn Meehan and Eileen Rice. They were each charged with two felonies: One count of forgery, and one count of filing a false record.

Prosecutors said Monday that they would soon start turning over hard drives with evidence to the defendants as part of the pre-trial discovery process.

Nevada is the third state to file criminal charges in connection with the Trump campaign’s fake electors plan to subvert the 2020 election, which was carried out in seven states that Donald Trump lost. Activists met in each state, falsely claimed they were the rightful electors, and submitted phony certificates to Congress, hoping that somehow they would be recognized instead of Joe Biden’s legitimate electors.

Similar charges are pending against fake electors in Michigan and Georgia. Trump faces federal charges in connection with the scheme, and stemming from his broader attempt to overturn the 2020 election.

Lawyers for the fake electors have maintained that their actions were meant to preserve Trump’s ability to contest the election in court, and that federal law gives them leeway to send in their own elector certificates if the results are in question.