Former president Donald Trump and a long list of his allies have been indicted in Georgia for crimes related to his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in that state, just weeks after he was indicted by the federal government for similar crimes. Here’s what that means and what happens next for him.
Trump is charged with a crime — racketeering — that carries up to 20 years in prison
Trump has been charged with violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO in legal circles. A federal version of the law was originally designed to prosecute mob bosses who were leading complex criminal enterprises. Georgia’s version, which is one of the most expansive in the country, allows prosecutors to weave together several alleged crimes — in this case, conspiracy to defraud the state, false statements and writings, impersonating a public officer, forgery, computer theft and dozens of others — into one charge that carries up to 20 years in prison.
Prosecutors allege the Trump campaign is the criminal enterprise and the scheme was to overturn the popular vote in Georgia. After a two-and-a-half-year investigation, prosecutors put together a 98-page indictment, with 19 defendants and 13 charges against Trump alone.
The whole point of using this statute is to nab the big fish, say legal experts.
What is an indictment? Georgia’s indictment of Trump lays out threats, intimidation
An indictment is a written statement of criminal charges that has been approved by a grand jury; in this case a group of randomly selected people from Georgia who heard prosecutors’ evidence against Trump. Trump called, cajoled and even threatened top Georgia election officials and put together a months-long campaign to lie about the election results in Georgia, the indictment alleges.
The examples given in the indictment mostly fall into these categories:
- Trump called at least six state officials and urged them to find and throw out enough suspect votes to offset his loss in the state
- Trump falsely claimed, without any proof, that widespread fraud tainted the election results
- Trump publicly attacked election officials in Georgia
- Accessing election equipment
- Forgery related to fake electors
These actions are seen as threats and intimidation aimed at overturning the election results in Georgia.
What happens next for Trump?
Now that Trump has been indicted in Georgia, the legal process will continue. Here’s what happens next:
Arraignment and Plea
After being indicted, defendants are arraigned, which is the formal reading of the charges in court. They are also asked to enter a plea. Trump’s attorney could ask the court to waive the arraignment, and he could enter a plea of not guilty without appearing in court.
Bail will be determined for Trump. He is likely to be released, possibly in exchange for a promise to return to face the charges at trial.
Trump’s legal team is expected to challenge the prosecution, claiming political bias and potentially seeking a change of venue for the trial. The process of selecting a jury could be lengthy, given the high-profile nature of the case and the need to find impartial jurors.
If the case goes to trial, a jury of 12 people from Fulton County must all agree beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump is guilty for a conviction on any count. If the jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict, a mistrial may be declared.
If Trump is convicted, he would likely seek a new trial by asserting that the outcome was inconsistent with the evidence or contrary to the law.
Donald Trump’s indictment in the Georgia case marks another significant legal challenge for the former president. The charges against him carry serious penalties, and the legal process will determine his fate. As the case unfolds, it will be closely watched by both Trump’s supporters and critics, as it has the potential to have far-reaching implications for the future of American politics.