Former US President Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty in the Georgia criminal case accusing him of racketeering and conspiracy in connection with the effort to overturn the 2020 election.
“As evidenced by my signature below, I do hereby waive formal arraignment and enter my plea of not guilty to the indictment in this case”, Trump said in a court filing in Fulton County Superior Court.
Trump’s lawyers submitted the plea in writing and notified the court that the front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination would not appear physically for the slated arraignment next week, which is allowed under Georgia law.
The former President said in the court filing that he had discussed the charges in the indictment with his attorney, CBS said.
Trump added that: “And I fully understand the nature of the offenses charged and my right to appear at arraignment”.
He further said that he “freely and voluntarily” waived his right to be present at his arraignment and to have it read to him in open court.
Trump, who is running for President again, had been scheduled to be arraigned on the charges at 9:30am next Wednesday.
Also, the Judge overseeing Trump’s election interference case in federal court has set a trial date for March 4, a schedule that could have a crucial impact on the 2024 race for the White House.
U.S. District Judge, Tanya Chutkan’s decision sets the trial in the middle of the Republican presidential primaries and the day before Super Tuesday.
At a hearing on Monday, Chutkan heard arguments from Trump’s lawyers and federal prosecutors about when the case could be set for trial. Special counsel Jack Smith proposed that the trial start in January, with jury selection beginning this December, while Trump’s team said the trial should be pushed back until April 2026, after the presidential election.
“These proposals are obviously very far apart. Neither of them is acceptable”, Chutkan said.
He added that Trump will have to prioritise the trial and that she would not change the trial schedule based on another defendant’s professional obligations, for example a professional athlete’s.
An indictment accuses Trump of 13 felony counts, including racketeering, for pressuring state officials to reverse his 2020 election loss and allegedly setting up a fake slate of electors to undermine the congressional certification of Democratic President, Joe Biden’s victory.
Fulton County prosecutors seek an October start to the trial. Some of Trump’s co-defendants in Georgia, including attorney Sidney Powell, Trevian Kutti and Ray Smith, have also waived formal arraignment and entered not guilty pleas.
Credible News reports that the 98-page Georgia indictment filed in mid-August charges Trump and 18 other defendants with a total of 41 criminal counts.
The Georgia case is Trump’s fourth indictment. He faces a New York state trial in March involving a hush money payment to a porn star and a federal trial in May in Florida for allegedly mishandling federal classified documents.