Trump Georgia case: Judge rejects free speech challenge, declines to toss charges

FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — A Georgia judge on Thursday rejected a bid from former President Donald Trump seeking to dismiss criminal charges filed against him in connection with the 2020 presidential election.

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Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee ruled Thursday that statements made by Trump and 14 others charged in the indictment handed down last year were made “in the furtherance of criminal activity” and not protected by the First Amendment.

“After considering the extensive briefing, the argument of counsel, and the indictment, the Court finds these vital constitutional protections do not reach the actions and statements alleged by the State,” McAfee wrote in his order. “Nor do the statutes themselves facially violate the First Amendment. The Defendants’ motions are therefore denied.”

In a statement shared on social media after the ruling came down, Trump attorney Steve Sadow said that the former president’s defense team “respectfully disagree(s) with Judge McAfee’s order ... and will continue to evaluate [our] options regarding the First Amendment challenges.”

Last week, Sadow argued that McAfee should throw out the charges against his client because the involved protected speech, WSB-TV reported.

“I don’t think there’s any question that says statements, comment, speech, expressive conduct that deals with campaigning or elections has always been found to be at the zenith of protected speech,” Trump attorney Steve Sadow argued in court, according to WSB. “When you look at the allegations against President Trump, all of the allegations — all of the allegations — involved expressive conduct or speech.”

Prosecutors argued that Trump’s statements were part of a conspiracy to illegal overturn his election loss to President Joe Biden, WSB reported.

“It’s not that the defendant has been hauled into a courtroom because the prosecution doesn’t like what he said,” prosecutor Donald Wakeford said, according to the news station. “What he is not allowed to do is employ his speech and his expression and his statements as part of a criminal conspiracy, to violate Georgia’s RICO, to impersonate public officers to file false documents, and to make false statements to the government.”

Last year, a grand jury indicted Trump and 18 others on charges that they conspired to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.

Four people — bail bondsman Scott Hall and attorneys Sidney Powell, Kenneth Chesebro and Jenna Ellis — have pleaded guilty to charges. The remaining defendants, including Trump, have denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.

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