Friday 5 April 2024

Judge Rules Against Trump Attempt To Have Georgia Election Case Thrown Out Over First Amendment

 Judge Scott McAfee ruled on Thursday against an argument from former President Donald Trump and 14 of his co-defendants to dismiss the 2020 election-related charges they face in Georgia on free speech grounds. 

Trump had argued that the prosecution from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis was a violation of First Amendment protections of political speech, freedom of association, and the right to petition. McAfee, who is overseeing the case, ruled against Trump arguing that Willis has a right to prosecute. 

“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,” McAfee wrote

“In other words, the law does not insulate speech allegedly made during fraudulent or criminal conduct from prosecution under the guise of petitioning the government. The right to petition is not absolute, nor does it carry ‘special First Amendment status’ that would render claims asserted under it immune from criminal recourse,” the judge added. 

McAfee said that he was required to interpret the indictment against Trump and his co-defendants “liberally in favor of the State” during the pretrial stage, adding that, “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.”

Trump lawyer Steve Saddow said that the defendants “respectfully disagree with Judge McAfee’s order and will continue to evaluate their options regarding the First Amendment challenges.”


McAfee’s order says that Trump may be able to challenge on the same grounds again later in the court case “at the appropriate time after the establishment of a factual record.”

Willis’s case against Trump in Georgia has been full of turmoil amid a high profile hearing on whether she should be dismissed from the case over her relationship with Special Prosecutor Nathan Wade. Willis stayed on the case after McAfee ruled that either she or Wade had to leave the case. 

Last month, McAfee dismissed six charges in the case brought by Willis, including three against Trump. McAfee dismissed counts 2, 5, 6, 23, 28, and 38. Each count deals with allegations that Trump and his allies asked Georgia officials to break their oaths of office. The defendants challenged the charges, saying their Sixth Amendment rights and due process rights had been violated.

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