Nov 7, 2023 - News

"Stop Cop City" RICO defendants face Fulton judge

An aerial image of a police vehicle parked on a cleared rolling area bordered by a forest

Law enforcement officers on patrol at the planned public safety training center campus. Photo: Cheney Orr/AFP via Getty Images

A Fulton County judge has set a June 2024 deadline to enter pleas for 61 people accused of racketeering, domestic terrorism and other charges related to the "Defend the Atlanta Forest" movement.

Driving the news: Monday morning, dozens of defendants made their first courtroom appearance in Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Adams' Downtown courtroom.

Details: Adams called up defendants five at a time to blaze through the arraignment proceedings and schedule deadlines for motions.

  • Four defendants — one of whom is in federal immigration custody, prosecutors said — did not appear in court. Defendants who had not yet been booked at the Fulton County jail had until 10am Tuesday to do so, the judge said.

Zoom in: Zoom in: The case could be a logistical headache. Several attorneys told the judge their clients plan to file a speedy trial demand, the AJC reports.

  • "Y'all will have to work with me," Adams told the attorneys. "'I've tried a lot of cases. I've presided over quite a number. I've never had one with 61 defendants."

In the weeds: Defense attorneys should allocate one to two days to download the 5 terabytes of discovery data from prosecutors' computers, John Fowler, the Georgia deputy attorney general who's presenting the state's case, told Adams.

  • A single terabyte could hold 500 hours of high-definition video or 6.5 million document pages, according to Dropbox.

Zoom out: Supporters of the activists, who say the charges are politically motivated and intended to stifle protests, rallied outside the court during the proceedings.

The big picture: The "Stop Cop City" case joins two other nationally significant racketeering cases — the Trump election interference and Young Slime Life trials — playing out in the Downtown courthouse at the same time.

State of play: While opponents continue a legal challenge to force a referendum on the 85-acre facility, its construction continues. In late October, Mayor Andre Dickens told Buckhead Young Republicans that the project was roughly 40% complete.

  • In addition, four protesters and one journalist recently filed a lawsuit against the city over their 2021 arrest while protesting outside of an Atlanta City Council member's house, Saporta Report writes.

What's next: Adams told attorneys to return on the day before Thanksgiving to court to hear nine defendants' requests regarding a speedy trial.

  • "If you have travel plans you'll need to stay because there's no other time the court can hear it," she said.

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