Three of former President Donald Trump’s associates in the Fulton County, Georgia, election case have pleaded not guilty.
Former federal prosecutor Sidney Powell and publicist Trevian Kutti each entered a plea of “not guilty” on Aug. 29, a day after attorney Ray Smith pleaded the same way, to racketeering and conspiracy charges advanced by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.
Ms. Powell and Mr. Smith previously served as attorneys to President Trump and provided him with legal advice. Ms. Kutti is a former publicist for rapper Kanye West, who supported President Trump in 2020.
Each of the 18 defendants in the case face racketeering charges under the Georgia Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, a bill commonly used to bring down large-scale criminal enterprises like gangs, cartels, drug runners, and others.
Because of this, Ms. Willis’s use of the legislation in President Trump’s case is unusual and controversial.
Ms. Powell, like every other defendant in the case, is charged with a RICO violation. She was also charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit election fraud, conspiracy to commit computer theft, conspiracy to computer trespass, conspiracy to commit computer invasion of privacy, and conspiracy to defraud the state. Each charge is a felony.
Ms. Kutti faces a RICO charge, a conspiracy to commit solicitation of false statements and writings charge, and a count of influencing witnesses. As in Ms. Powell’s case, each charge counts as a felony.
Mr. Smith faces a count of violating the RICO Act and 11 other charges, including three counts of solicitation of violation of oath of office by a public officer, two counts of false statements and writing, conspiracy to commit impersonating a public officer, two counts of conspiracy to commit forgery in the first degree, two counts of conspiracy to commit false statements and writing, and conspiracy to commit filing false documents.
President Trump and his allies have called foul on the charges, saying that they are politically motivated and constitute a violation of First Amendment rights to political speech, and that they were well within their rights to contest the results and to seek to root out fraud.
President Trump is currently facing charges in three additional cases.
One of the cases in Washington led by special counsel Jack Smith claims, like the Georgia case, that President Trump unlawfully sought to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Another case led by Mr. Smith charges President Trump with illegal retention of classified documents.
A third, based in Manhattan, New York City, charges President Trump with campaign finance violations over a hush money payment he made to adult performer Stormy Daniels allegedly to cover up an affair.
President Trump has given no indication he intends to follow suit with his colleagues and waive his arraignment hearing, or if he will choose to attend the hearing in person.
Since charges began stacking up against him, President Trump has dismissed the cases as politically motivated efforts to keep him from winning a second term in the White House.
Despite the charges, however, President Trump remains far and away the frontrunner within the GOP, with support for him only intensifying as the list of indictments grows longer.
Fulton County was the first municipality to require the former president to take a mugshot, which has since made the president millions of dollars in merchandising.
Likewise, because the judge has decided to allow cameras in the courtroom, President Trump may seek to maximize his media exposure through the trial.