A Grand Jury in Georgia has indicted Donald Trump and seventeen others for being a part of a criminal enterprise to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia. The indictment means Trump went to Fulton County Jail to get fingerprinted and his mug shot taken and the case will go to trial, but it doesn’t guarantee a guilty verdict. The trial will take place on Mar. 4, several days before the Georgia Republican primary elections.
The prosecutors, led by Fani Willis, accused Trump under a state version of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) act, which is used to try groups of people accused of being part of an illegal conspiracy. The law was designed to target groups like the mafia, but has since been used in white-collar criminal cases and now political conspiracies, the New York Times reports.
Former lawyer and Pace Academy English teacher Emily Washburn has been researching the indictment. She says that the RICO act is “notoriously hard to prove, so the fact that Fani Willis decided to charge him under this law shows she’s confident, otherwise, she wouldn’t have chosen it.” One benefit for the prosecution of using the RICO act is the fact that “there are eighteen co-defendants and these are high-up allies, attorneys, and people who have all been accused of being in the inside of a conspiracy,” Washburn says. This could put pressure on the other defendants to testify against Trump as part of a plea deal.
There’s no law against people convicted of crimes being president, but the case could still impact the 2024 elections. “Two of the charges, soliciting a public officer to violate their oath and forgery, carry automatic prison charges of one year,” Washburn explained. Trump being in jail would impede campaigning and could undermine his credibility in the Republican primaries or the general election.
Donald Trump has already been indicted in New York over possible hush money payments to cover up a sex scandal and in Florida over mishandling of classified documents. However, the case in Georgia is very different, Washburn says, because while the other two indictments were under federal law, the Georgia indictment is a state law offense. If Donald Trump becomes president he could theoretically pardon himself of federal offenses, but “a state law offense can only be pardoned by the state executive branch, the governor.” It’s unclear whether Georgia Governor Brian Kemp would be willing to pardon Trump if he is convicted.