Judge denies Trump's Georgia election motion to dismiss charges

 April 5, 2024

A Georgia judge denied the motion to dismiss the indictment against former President Donald Trump for interference in the 2020 presidential election, citing First Amendment protections as Fox News reported

"After considering the extensive briefing, the argument of counsel, and the indictment, the Court finds these vital constitutional protections do not reach the actions and statements alleged by the State. Nor do the statutes themselves facially violate the First Amendment," Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee ruled Thursday.

"They argue this prosecution violates the First Amendment’s protections of political speech and activity, freedom of association, and the right to petition Congress as-applied to their alleged conduct, and further contend that the indicted charges are overbroad," he said.

More Judge's Take

McAfee asserted that after interpreting the indictment’s language "liberally in favor of the State as required at this pretrial stage, the Court finds that the Defendants’ expressions and speech are alleged to have been made in furtherance of criminal activity and constitute false statements knowingly and willfully made in matters within a government agency’s jurisdiction which threaten to deceive and harm the government."

Steve Sadow, the former president and presumed Republican nominee's attorney, argued last week that his client's challenges to the 2020 election results fell within the scope of the First Amendment.

"There is nothing alleged against President Trump that is not political speech," Sadow said.

But McAfee said in his Thursday order that "[e]ven core political speech addressing matters of public concern is not impenetrable from prosecution if allegedly used to further criminal activity.

"The defense has not presented, nor is the Court able to find, any authority that the speech and conduct alleged is protected political speech," he added.

First Amendment Implications

Significantly, the judge appeared to imply that he has not entirely ruled out First Amendment challenges, suggesting that comparable challenges may be made following the establishment of factual evidence.

"Without foreclosing the ability to raise similar as-applied challenges at the appropriate time after the establishment of a factual record, the Defendants’ motions based on First Amendment grounds are denied," he said.

In a statement following the decision, Shadow said, "President Trump and other defendants respectfully disagree with Judge McAfee’s order and will continue to evaluate their options regarding the First Amendment challenges."

"It is significant that the court’s ruling was without prejudice, as it made clear that defendants were not foreclosed from again raising their ‘as-applied challenges at the appropriate time after the establishment of a factual record…’" he added.

The Charges

The Georgia RICO Act and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act are among the charges that led to Trump's indictment in August.

Other charges include solicitation of a public officer's violation of oath, conspiracy to impersonate a public officer, conspiracy to commit forgery in the first degree, conspiracy to commit false statements and writings, conspiracy to commit filing false documents, and conspiracy to commit forgery in the first degree. There are also, charges of filing false documents.

In March, Judge McAfee dismissed six of the allegations against Trump and his associates, reasoning that the state had not provided enough evidence to support six counts of "solicitation of violation of oath by public officer." The trial date is still pending.

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