Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D) and lawyers for defendants in a Georgia extortion case involving former President Trump are scheduled to face off in court Tuesday, with the state’s top prosecutor accused of social media incendiary They are seeking to have their bail revoked for posting such things.
Harrison Floyd, leader of Black Voices for Trump, who was indicted along with the former president, accused prosecutors of attempting to obstruct justice by intimidating future witnesses and communicating “directly and indirectly.” He could be deprived of his pre-trial freedom over social media posts deemed to be a violation of law. Co-defendant in this case.
Prosecutors say Mr. Floyd is in violation of pretrial release conditions he agreed to after being charged in a major criminal plot to overturn Georgia’s 2020 presidential election results to benefit Mr. Trump. He is the first of 19 defendants at risk of being detained over his post.
As the upcoming trial approaches, questions have arisen about how Willis will address similar concerns about Trump’s own incendiary social media.
“Because Trump is running for president, his free speech claims will be stronger than those of his other co-defendants,” said Kay Levin, a law professor at Emory University. . “But I still don’t think he has the right to literally say anything in person, in a press conference, on social media or in any other forum.”
Willis’ motion targets multiple posts Floyd made this month to his 26,000 followers on Platform X, formerly known as Twitter, as well as a podcast interview. The posts reference known state witnesses, including Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gabe Sterling, chief operating officer in the Secretary of State’s Office.
“See, the truth is that @GaSecofState and @GabrielSterling [shit] You should be angry,” Floyd tweeted on November 7, using a poop emoji instead of an expletive.
Floyd also made several posts about Fulton County poll worker Ruby Freeman. Freeman allegedly tried to persuade her to make false statements about her 2020 campaign under the guise of offering her cooperation, which is directly related to the charges she is being indicted on. . He pleaded not guilty.
Willis wrote in her filing that the posts led to “new threats of violence” against Freeman.
Both Mr. Floyd and Mr. Trump agreed to pretrial release conditions that require them not to communicate “in any way” with co-defendants or witnesses about the facts of the case. Also, do not threaten co-defendants or witnesses in the case.
Levine said Floyd’s lawyers on Tuesday exercised their First Amendment right to question the legitimacy of the state’s case through social media posts by Trump’s co-defendants, which included He is likely to insist there was no evidence of intimidation of witnesses. But prosecutors may argue that intimidation of witnesses in the age of social media “is about more than just the visibility of a knife or a gun,” he said.
“I expect her office to say it’s foolish to think that all he’s doing is legitimately questioning the credibility of these witnesses,” Levine said. he said. “The time to do that is in court.”
Trump’s lawyers have made similar arguments in his other legal matters, where his social media habits are already causing problems. In both Washington and New York, judges have imposed gag orders barring President Trump from commenting on individuals involved in the case after posting his incendiary posts.
In Monday’s appellate argument challenging Washington’s gag order, Trump’s lawyers argued the restrictions would violate the former president’s First Amendment rights and chill political speech protections. did.
But when free speech intersects with criminal law, the ruling is different, Levine said.
“We will not allow people shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater to assert their right to free speech,” she said. “You are allowed to talk, but you have to experience the consequences yourself.
“Criminal laws don’t just get repealed in response to free speech claims. That’s not how our system works,” she added.
Both gag orders have been temporarily suspended as an appeals court considers their legality.
But no judge has attempted to detain the former president ahead of his various trials, despite similarly inflammatory social media posts about the former president’s legal issues.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee will ultimately decide whether to approve prosecutors’ request to detain Floyd after a hearing Tuesday. Unlike the other 18 defendants in the case, Floyd turned himself in in August without first negotiating bail and ended up spending several days in jail before a bail agreement was reached.
If McAfee returns Mr. Floyd to prison before trial, Mr. Trump’s social media could be subject to similar scrutiny.
“Conceptually, judges like consistency,” Levine said. “It will be up to Trump’s defense team to explain why he should be treated differently than his co-defendants who committed the same act.”
Trump’s status as a former president and the undisputed front-runner in the 2024 Republican presidential primary seeks to fully rein him in as a criminal defendant and as a party to civil matters. That detail will likely play a central role in such matters, although it complicates the judges’ efforts. decision.
“Even if the behavior is the same, or very close to the same, there is a lot more consideration to be given to whether to match a former president with his demeanor. [Secret Service] Details will be provided at the prison,” Levine said.
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