Georgia judge declines to revoke Trump co-defendant’s bond in election interference case News
© JURIST / Jaclyn Belczyk
Georgia judge declines to revoke Trump co-defendant’s bond in election interference case

The Georgia judge overseeing the trial involving former President Donald Trump and his allies’ alleged interference in the 2020 US presidential election refused on Tuesday to place Harrison Floyd, one of Trump’s co-defendants, in jail ahead of trial. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis claimed that Floyd violated the conditions of his bond by communicating with and attempting to influence other individuals involved in the case. While the judge agreed that the posts violated Floyd’s bond conditions, he found that the posts did not warrant revoking Floyd’s bond ahead of trial.

Willis appeared in a Fulton County courtroom on Tuesday to argue in favor of revoking Floyd’s bond. She previously filed a motion requesting that Floyd’s bond be revoked on November 15. In her motion, Willis asserted that Floyd has “engaged in numerous intentional and flagrant violations of the conditions of release ordered by the Court” since he posted bond on August 29. As a condition of Floyd’s bond, he agreed to refrain from intimidating or communicating with any codefendants or witnesses in the case. In exchange for agreeing to these conditions and posting a $100,000 bond, Floyd was allowed to stay out of jail ahead of his trial date.

At the heart of Willis’ argument are several tweets posted from Floyd’s personal X (formerly Twitter) account to his approximately 25,000 followers. In these tweets, Willis claimed that Floyd attempted “to intimidate codefendants and witnesses, to communicate directly and indirectly with codefendants and witnesses, and to otherwise obstruct the administration of justice.” Willis cited to 17 of Floyd’s tweets in her motion. The tweets included posts tagging Floyd’s codefendants, such as former Trump attorneys Jenna Ellis and Sidney Powell, as well as potential witnesses for the prosecution, like Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Ellis and Powell have already pleaded guilty to reduced charges for their roles in the case.

Another tweet included in the motion reads, “Leaking Jenna Ellis & Sidney Powell proffer is nothing more than an attempt at TAINTING THE JURY POOL. Fulton County is CORRUPT! When is [Georgia] leadership going to step up?” The tweet includes a tag to an ABC News article describing proffer videos from Ellis and Powell. The videos, obtained exclusively by ABC News, contained portions of Ellis’s and Powell’s confidential interviews with prosecutors in which the two revealed key information about Willis’ case against Trump and his remaining co-defendants.

In response to Willis’ motion, Floyd’s legal team argued that the posts were “political speech” and that Willis was “trying to silence it.” Floyd’s legal team raised the issue of political speech under the US Constitution’s First Amendment to claim that “the State’s reading [of the conditions of Floyd’s bond] is hopelessly vague and cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny.” Floyd also claimed that Willis’ request to revoke his bond was “retaliatory” because he had previously rejected a plea offer from prosecutors in the case.

After hearing oral arguments from both sides, Judge Scott McAfee found that Floyd had violated his bond conditions “in several instances,” but “not every violation compels revocation.” As a result, McAfee decided to modify Floyd’s bond.

Under the newly modified bond conditions, Floyd is prohibited from making “public statement[s] of any kind concerning any codefendant or witness in this case or concerning any person specifically named in the indictment.” Included in the description of public statements are statements to newspapers, magazines, television, radio, podcast and YouTube channels, along with “any other commercial or self-published media.” The new conditions also extend to prohibit Floyd from making any such statements on social media. Floyd was also required to delete any and all social media posts in violation of the new bond conditions.

Floyd is a leader of a political organization known as Black Voices for Trump. Floyd faces three charges in Willis’ election interference case, including conspiracy to commit solicitation of false statements and writings and influencing witnesses, as well as the overarching Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act violation that Trump and his other 18 co-defendants were charged with. There is no trial date set for the case yet, but last week Willis requested an August 5, 2024 trial date from the court.