All 19 defendants in Georgia election interference case have pleaded not guilty
(CNN) — Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and the remaining defendants in the election interference case in Fulton County, Georgia, have pleaded not guilty and have waived their arraignments, new court filings show.
Misty Hampton, who faces charges related to the Coffee County voting system breach and was the last holdout among the 19 defendants changed in District Attorney Fani Willis’ case, entered her plea early Tuesday afternoon. The other defendants have been filing their pleas in recent days.
Arraignment hearings had been scheduled for Wednesday in Atlanta. Georgia law allows criminal defendants to waive their in-person appearance and formally enter a not guilty plea through paperwork filed with the court.
Meadows has been charged with two state crimes: violating Georgia’s anti-racketeering RICO law and soliciting a public official to violate their oath. The charges mostly revolve around the infamous January 2021 phone call where Trump and Meadows pressed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to flip the election results in then-President Donald Trump’s favor.
Meadows is trying to move his case out of state court and into federal court, where he could possibly get the indictment dismissed by invoking immunity that shields many federal workers from litigation.
At a high-stakes hearing in August, Meadows testified under oath for more than three hours and claimed that the alleged actions described in the Georgia indictment were connected to his formal government duties as Trump’s chief of staff. The federal judge who will decide whether to move the case still hasn’t issued a ruling.
Other notable allies
Hampton, who has been charged with seven counts, is accused of participating in a conspiracy to allow supporters of Trump to unlawfully access voter data and ballot counting equipment at the Coffee County election office. Hampton also faces the racketeering charge that is central to Willis’ case.
Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official who is similarly seeking to move his case to federal court, also pleaded not guilty in a court filing. Georgia law allows criminal defendants to waive their in-person appearance and formally enter a not-guilty plea through paperwork filed with the court.
Clark was charged with two counts in the Georgia case. He served as a senior Trump appointee at the Justice Department and tried to use his powers as a federal official to overturn the 2020 election. He drafted a letter, which was ultimately never sent, promoting false claims of voting irregularities and urged Georgia lawmakers to consider throwing out Biden’s legitimate electors.
Clark lobbied Trump to make him the acting attorney general so he could send the letter and have the Justice Department intervene in the Georgia election. Trump decided not to put Clark in charge after other senior Justice Department officials threatened to resign.
Pro-Trump attorney John Eastman, Georgia state Sen. Shawn Still, former Coffee County GOP Chair Cathy Latham and former Georgia GOP Chair David Shafer also entered not guilty pleas and waived their formal arraignments in court filings Tuesday.
Eastman was indicted on nine counts, including a racketeering charge. He devised and promoted a six-step plan for then-Vice President Mike Pence to overturn Joe Biden’s victory while presiding over the Electoral College certification on January 6, 2021. He also urged Georgia state lawmakers to appoint fake GOP electors to replace the legitimate slate of Democratic electors.
Still was charged with seven state crimes and is one of the 16 Republicans who served as “fake electors” in Georgia and signed paperwork falsely claiming that Trump won the Peach State. This was part of the Trump campaign’s plan to subvert the Electoral College process and nullify Joe Biden’s victory.
Latham was charged with 11 counts related to an alleged plot to unlawfully access voter data and ballot counting equipment in Coffee County, in addition to the racketeering charge that is central to Willis’ case. Latham also signed on to be an alternative elector for Trump in Georgia.
Shafer was charged with eight state crimes. Fulton County prosecutors accused him of playing a key role in organizing the Trump campaign’s slate of fake electors in Georgia, as part of the effort to subvert the Electoral College. He served as a fake elector and convened the other 15 fake electors in the Georgia State Capitol in December 2020, where they signed a certificate falsely stating that Trump won the state over Biden.
Shafer has previously claimed that the fake electors scheme came at the direction of Trump and the Trump campaign.
Shafer and Latham are also seeking to move their cases from state court to federal court.
Judge sets Wednesday hearing on scheduling
Fulton County Judge Scott McAfee, who is presiding over the Georgia election subversion case, scheduled a hearing for Wednesday to address questions about trial scheduling and possibly breaking up the case.
In an order posted Tuesday, McAfee said there will be a hearing on Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET to deal with critical scheduling matters. This is the first hearing McAfee will hold in the case, and the proceedings are expected to be televised.
The judge said he’ll want prosecutors to provide a “good-faith estimate” for how long it would take to hold a joint trial for all 19 defendants, and how long it would take if the case is divided into subgroups of defendants.
Kenneth Chesebro’s trial is scheduled to begin October 23, and Willis wants to keep the case together and hold one massive trial beginning that day. Trump opposes that speedy timeline, and many of the defendants want to break up the case.