Earlier Monday, it appears that the Fulton County Clerk of Clerk accidentally published a draft docket entry for this week’s highly anticipated indictment of former President Donald Trump. When a big case with multiple defendants is anticipated, clerks do sometimes make advance preparations based upon what will be presented to the grand jury, with the proviso that the draft may of course change depending on the grand jury outcome. The Fulton County clerk’s office put out a statement this afternoon indicating that they were aware a “fictitious document” had been circulated online related to the special grand jury, which appears to refer to the fact that the document was not an “official filing.” Reuters reported that the document was real and had been filed on the court’s website briefly before being removed. While it was quickly (and properly) removed, this docket, if authentic, provides a preview of the charges the former president might face. The charges listed in this docket entry are presumably only what DA Fani Willis is proposing to the grand jury; the grand jury will still have the opportunity to “no bill,” or not indict, any charges for which they do not find sufficient evidence. Nevertheless, this docket seems to provide insight into the case Fulton County is likely presenting against Trump.
We draw inferences from the draft docket entry based on the first and second edition of the Brookings Fulton County report, the Just Security Model Prosecution analyzing the parallel federal investigation of this conduct, and much other analysis including a chart tracking criminal evidence produced by the House Select Committee hearings. We hasten to add that this inadvertently posted draft docket may not represent the final charging decisions, so the following should be taken with that caution in mind.
Let’s start with what we know. The docket shows a total of at least 39 counts, and probably more; 13 of the 39 charges name former President Donald Trump. Note that there may be more than 39, as we have the docket entry only for one defendant. We expect to see docket entries of other defendants, and CNN has reported (at least as of last week) that there are more than a dozen of them.
The presence of other defendants is also corroborated by the fact that there are charges that are missing from this document – for example, the charges go from Charge 1 to Charge 5, skipping 2 through 4. This indicates charges against other defendants, perhaps for the same crime as the previous one listed. We will discuss below who these other defendants could potentially be, given the charges, the dates listed in the document, and publicly available facts about the underlying conduct at those times.
We also know the case number and the judge who is indicated, Rachelle Carnesale. Should that assignment remain and she gets the case, she is eminently qualified. She is a well-regarded former prosecutor and experienced judge (as a prosecutor she specialized in child abuse cases).
Violations of the Georgia RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act: 11/04/2020
The first charge against Donald Trump is a violation of the Georgia RICO Act. As detailed in the Brookings report, this is a serious felony that comes with a minimum sentence of 5 years imprisonment and a maximum of up to 20 years. The charges under Georgia RICO will, in all likelihood, encompass the entirety of the allegedly criminal scheme to overturn the election results in Georgia. The charge is dated to November 4, 2020 – the day after election day in 2020. Early that morning, with Rudy Giuliani’s encouragement, Trump declared that the election had been stolen, and throughout that day Trump and his allies (and apparent co-defendants) began their alleged criminal enterprise.
There are presumably three more individuals who are charged with violations of Georgia RICO – which would be the unlisted charges 2-4. Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows and Giuliani are the most likely here. It is difficult to detect the next most likely person. We do know, for example, that on the same date listed, Nov. 4, 2020, “Meadows called [attorney Cleta] Mitchell and asked her to go to Georgia, where Trump’s initial lead was shrinking as Democrat-heavy absentee ballots were counted,” according to the Washington Post and Jane Mayer’s reporting. However, the other members of the RICO conspiracy could have joined later than Nov. 4. We will find out soon enough.
Although there appears to be no specific reference in the docket to the allegations surrounding access to voting machines in Coffee County, those potential crimes may be folded into the broader RICO charge against Trump and others.
Solicitation of Violation of Oath by a Public Officer (Georgia Code 16-4-7(b), 16-10-1): 12/07/2020
The next charge against Trump is Solicitation of Violation of Oath by a Public Officer (Georgia Code 16-4-7(b), 16-10-1), dated to December 7, 2020. There is an extended analysis of the crime of violation of oath by a public officer in the second edition of the Brookings report. Meadows told Sen. Mike Lee that, on Dec. 7, he had begun “working on” pressing legislatures to appoint alternative slates of delegates.
Again, there are three missing charges – numbers 6-8. That could be the same three people as part of the RICO conspiracy.
Conspiracy Charges Under Georgia Code 16-4-8: 12/06/2020
The next six charges against Trump (Charges 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, and 19) are all for conspiracy under Georgia Code 16-4-8 – Conspiracy to Commit Impersonating a Public Officer, two charges for Conspiracy to Commit Forgery in the First Degree, two charges of Conspiracy to Commit False statements and Writings, and Conspiracy to Commit Filing False Documents. All of the conspiracy charges in the docket date to December 6, 2020, and this is presumably when the charged conspiracies started. The false electors plot appears to have begun in earnest on December 6. On that day Kenneth Chesebro, a Trump campaign lawyer, wrote a memorandum outlining a strategy for the fake electors scheme. This memorandum is at the heart of Jack Smith’s federal indictment, indicating a pivotal moment that tipped over into an allegedly criminal conspiracy across seven states including Georgia.
Chesbero appears to stand a high likelihood of being charged if our analysis is correct. So may David Shafer, chair of the Georgia GOP who took a leadership role in organizing the false electors in his state. He served as their Chairperson and directly communicated with Chesebro about the plan.
Filing False Documents Under Georgia Code 16-10-20.1(b): 12/31/2020
The next charge against Trump is Charge 27 for filing false documents. This appears to be for a notarized court document that Trump and John Eastman signed and filed alleging false Georgia election fraud on the date listed in the docket: December 31, 2020. The false certification features prominently in the Special Counsel’s indictment (para 30) and in federal district court judge David Carter’s analysis of Trump and Eastman’s criminal wrongdoing.
Solicitation of Violation of Oath by Public Officer Under Georgia Code 16-4-7(b) and False Statements and Writings Under Georgia Code 16-10-20: 01/02/2021
The next two charges – solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer, and false statements and writings – date to January 2, 2021. This is when the infamous call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger occurred. There are eight missing charges in the docket until the next one listed against Trump. This indicates that Willis may be charging four individuals with both of these crimes, as well. Given who was present on the phone call with Raffensperger, we believe that the individuals who may face possible exposure for these crimes could be Meadows (who actively participated on the call), Mitchell, and Trump campaign lawyers Kurt Hilbert and/or Alex Kaufman.
Solicitation of Violation of Oath by Public Officer Under Georgia Code 16-4-7(b) and False Statements and Writings Under Georgia Code 16-10-20: 09/17/2021
The final two charges listed in the docket are also for solicitation of Violation of Oath by a Public Officer, and false statements and writings. But these charges date to September 17, 2021. This date may surprise some, given that it is months after Trump’s effort to overturn the election failed and Joe Biden had been sworn in as president. However, on this date, Trump sent a letter to Raffensperger, including a report alleging further election fraud in Georgia during the 2020 presidential election.
A lawyer for Trump has already criticized the docket release, arguing that it “was no simple administrative mistake.” However, we do not think the apparently accidental posting of this docket entry is prejudicial against Trump or indicates anything out of the ordinary with the DA’s handling of the case. When a big case with multiple defendants is anticipated, clerks sometimes make advance preparations based upon what will be presented to the grand jury, with the proviso that the draft may of course change depending on the grand jury outcome. The apparently inadvertent posting of the docket entry does not appear to indicate any nefarious action. The grand jury was already in deliberations before it leaked, and it should have no impact on the proceedings. As we noted, this document only indicates the charges DA Willis intends to bring before the grand jury. Indeed, if the grand jury does not vote in favor of any one of these charges, the publication of this entry may actually help Trump — and indicate the integrity of the process.
|Fulton County Georgia Crimes|
|1||Violations of the Georgia RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act||GA Code § 16-14-4||Serious Felony||11/04/2020|
|5||Solicitation of Violation of Oath by Public Officer||GA Code § 16-4-7(b)||Felony||12/07/2020|
|9||Conspiracy to Commit Impersonating a Public Officer||GA Code § 16-4-8||Felony||12/06/2020|
|11||Conspiracy to Commit Forgery in the First Degree||GA Code § 16-4-8||Felony||12/06/2020|
|13||Conspiracy to Commit False Statements and Writings||GA Code § 16-4-8
|15||Conspiracy to Commit Filing False Documents||GA Code § 16-4-8
|17||Conspiracy to Commit Forgery in the First Degree||GA Code § 16-4-8
|19||Conspiracy to Commit False Statements and Writings||GA Code § 16-4-8||Felony||12/06/2020|
|27||Filing False Documents||GA Code § 16-10-20.1(b)
|28||Solicitation of Violations of Oath by Public Officer||GA Code § 16-4-7(b)||Felony||01/02/2021|
|29||False Statements and Writings||GA Code § 16-10-20||Felony||01/02/2021|
|38||Solicitation of Violations of Oath by Public Officer||GA Code § 16-4-7(b)
|39||False Statements and Writings||GA Code § 16-10-20||Felony||09/17/2021|