By Tom Hals
WILMINGTON, Delaware (Reuters) – The criminal case against former U.S. President Donald Trump for attempting to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia will be handled by the newest judge on the court, a former prosecutor who once worked in the same office as Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.
Fulton County Superior Court records show Judge Scott McAfee will oversee the case against Trump, which alleges the Republican was part of a scheme to overturn his loss in the state to Democrat Joe Biden. Judges are randomly assigned to cases.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and accused Willis, an elected Democrat, of being politically motivated.
McAfee was appointed to the court in February by the state’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp, according to the court’s website. McAfee is seeking election next year to retain his position as judge.
On his campaign website, McAfee pledges to clear the backlog of cases, hold violent offenders accountable and provide alternatives for non-violent offenders. “True justice isn’t about locking people up and throwing away the key,” his website said.
“He’s fair, intelligent,” said Brian Steel, a criminal defense lawyer in Georgia who said he knows McAfee professionally. Steel is not involved in the Trump case.
Trump, frontrunner for the Republican 2024 presidential nomination, was indicted on Monday as one of 19 defendants charged with racketeering and other crimes.
McAfee will set the schedule for the trial and will likely have to sort through numerous unsettled legal questions raised by prosecuting a case that covers acts that occurred while Trump was president. The judge may be asked by Trump’s legal team to move the case out of Fulton County, where Biden won easily in 2020, or to federal court.
McAfee joined the court after a serving since 2021 as inspector general, investigating the executive branch of Georgia’s government for allegations of fraud and waste. His office uncovered a scheme to defraud the state of $1.3 million by creating fake educational records and obtained a conviction of a former state worker who faked pregnancies, according to the inspector general’s website.
Prior to serving as inspector general, McAfee worked as an assistant U.S. attorney and as an assistant district attorney, overlapping with Willis, although it unknown if they worked together.
He specialized in major drug trafficking organizations in the U.S. attorney’s office and handled hundreds of felony cases, including armed robbery and murder, while working for the district attorney, according to the governor’s statement announcing McAfee’s appointment to the bench.
McAfee earned his undergraduate degree from Emory University where he majored in music and received a scholarship to play cello in the university symphony. He graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law and passed the state bar in 2013, according to the Georgia Bar Association website.
(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Alistair Bell)