(WASHINGTON) — Former President Donald Trump’s multiple criminal indictments have led to unprecedented times in the country’s legal system, particularly when it comes to the allegations of his interference with the 2020 election, legal experts said.
Prosecutors in Georgia and the federal special counsel have charged Trump with racketeering and conspiracy charges, respectively, with similar allegations including targeting states like Georgia and Arizona with misinformation tactics, and multiple attempts to pressure former Vice President Mike Pence into not certifying the election, and goading his followers before the riot at the Capitol.
Trump is expected to turn himself into the Fulton County sheriff’s office in a Georgia court this week on his charges and has pleaded not guilty to the federal indictment. He has consistently contended he has done nothing illegal.
Erica Hashimoto, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, told ABC News that it’s not uncommon for federal and state criminal cases that involve similar charges against a defendant to run consecutively, and likely one jurisdiction will hold off its trial while the other goes forward with its case.
However, the complexities of both probes against Trump and other co-defendants, and his two other indictments in New York and Florida, will complicate the prosecutions, and could lead to completely different types of prosecutions and defense arguments, she said.
“Multiple trials have been scheduled in other cases. Four is a lot,” Hashimoto told ABC News.
Dovetailed charges use similar allegations, evidence
The Jan. 6 indictment by Special counsel Jack Smith listed instances where the former president allegedly conspired with others to overthrow the results of the 2020 election.
This included targeting key states – Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin- and trying to get fake electors, according to the indictment.
The federal indictment also cites Trump’s tweets saying he falsely claimed Pence had the power to not certify the election and the former’s president’s speech during the rally on Jan. 6 where he repeated those falsehoods.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ indictment of Trump and 18 other defendants on racketeering charges also included similar allegations that Trump and his co-defendants targeted Georgia and the six other states with a fake elector scheme.
The Georgia indictment also lists Trump’s tweets and words before the Jan. 6 riot that promoted his false claims about Pence’s role in certifying the election in its arguments.
Scheduling complications will arise
Hashimoto and other legal experts said a key factor in both the Georgia and federal cases is timing. She said that if the cases go to trial, it’s highly unlikely they will be scheduled at the same time, and this creates more strategies for the defense and prosecution in the case that goes second.
“The prosecutors in the second case will have a good look at how his defense lawyers will defend him and be more prepared,” she said. “The defense will also adapt and learn how to make their arguments for the same allegations.”
David Sklansky, a law professor at Stanford Law, told ABC News, that he predicts the special counsel’s trial will take place before the Georgia trial, given that the state case involves 19 defendants.
“There may be defendants in the Georgia case who want to go soon, but if other defendants are interested in delaying, that will create a complication,” he said.
Smith said in an Aug. 10 court filing that he is seeking a start date for Jan. 2, 2024, in the federal trial and indicated it would take no longer than four to six weeks to present his case to a jury.
Trump’s attorneys have pushed for a 2026 trial date.
Willis proposed a March 4, 2024 start date for her trial against Trump and the 18 other defendants. They have been given a deadline of Friday to turn themselves in and be arraigned on their charges.
Attorney strategies hinge on specific court, timing
The special counsel’s office and Wills’s office will likely have discussions on the timing of their trials, but it is highly unlikely that they will share any evidence, grand jury testimony or other prosecution materials before their trials Hashimoto said.
Instead, the prosecutors in the second case will likely use testimony from the first case to help formulate their arguments. This situation also puts more pressure on the defense, according to Hashimoto, who previously served as a federal public defender.
“It is unlikely that President Trump will testify,” she said. “Anything that he says in one trial can be used against him in the other.”
Sklansky, who previously served as an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, said despite the overlap in charges and similarities, the public should expect to see two different cases play out in Washington D.C. and Georgia.
Sklansky said the federal government’s conspiracy indictment is more narrow since there is currently only one defendant and focuses only on his actions that they allege defrauding the country and depriving Americans of their voting rights.
In Georgia, there are more allegations and criminal counts including the intimidation of witnesses and alleged theft of voting equipment that are not part of the federal case, he noted.
“There is significant overlap and things the fed indictment does and the state does and vice versa, but in the end, the federal case is more narrow, and more focused,” he said.
Sklansky reiterated that the multiple criminal and civil cases against Trump, who is still campaigning around the country will leave the legal community in uncharted territory, and there may be other factors and complications to come before any of the former president’s trials begin.
“It’s not something we have useful precedence for,” he said.
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