Former US President Donald Trump has entered a plea of not guilty in the ongoing Georgia election fraud case, choosing to waive his right to appear in court for his arraignment next week. Mr. Trump is among 19 individuals charged with conspiring to overturn the 2020 election results in the state. Despite facing 13 felony counts, including racketeering, he maintains his innocence and asserts that the charges are politically motivated.
Last week, Mr. Trump turned himself in at the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, where he was photographed for a mugshot. In a document filed with the court, he acknowledged his understanding of the allegations and his right to be present during his arraignment, but voluntarily chose to waive this right.
While Mr. Trump, who is currently the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, appeared at his three previous arraignments, he decided not to do so for this case. He did the same for cases in New York and Florida, and for a separate case in Washington DC, citing security concerns due to the presence of both his supporters and counter-protesters.
Fulton County is unique in that defendants can choose not to appear in court for formal charging in criminal cases. Brian Tevis, an attorney representing one of Mr. Trump’s co-defendants, stated that the majority of defendants choose to waive their arraignment.
Recently, three other co-defendants, including former Trump attorneys Ray Stallings Smith and Sidney Powell, as well as former celebrity publicist Trevian Kutti, entered not guilty pleas. All 19 defendants, including Mr. Trump, are facing charges under Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly known as the Rico Act. This law aims to link individuals who committed the crimes with those who orchestrated them.
Fulton County’s District Attorney, Fani Willis, a Democrat, has faced criticism from some Republicans and Trump allies for indicting Mr. Trump in the case. A State Senator, Colton Moore, called for a special session to impeach Ms. Willis, but Governor Brian Kemp, also a Republican, stated that he hasn’t seen sufficient evidence to justify such an action.
Governor Kemp emphasized that he is committed to upholding the law and the Constitution regardless of political implications.
As the legal proceedings continue, the case continues to attract attention and spark debate among political circles.