By Kate Brumback | Associated Press
ATLANTA — The Georgia judge overseeing the election subversion case against former President Donald Trump and others said Tuesday he plans to change the bail conditions for one of the defendants after prosecutors complained about his social media posts mentioning witnesses and co-defendants.
Fulton County Prosecutor Fani Willis made a rare appearance in the courtroom to argue for revoking the bond of Harrison Floyd, who was a leader in the Black Voices for Trump organization. He was one of 18 people accused, along with the former president, of participating in a massive scheme to illegally try to overturn the 2020 election.
Willis filed a motion last week asking Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee to revoke Floyd’s bond. In her first in-person appearance in the case since the indictment, she argued that Floyd attempted to intimidate and contact likely witnesses and his co-defendants, in violation of the conditions of his release.
Floyd’s lawyers argued that his social media posts constitute constitutionally protected speech and that he was in no way trying to communicate with or intimidate any witness or co-defendant.
McAfee said there is no constitutional right to bail and that bail orders can contain conditions that restrict a defendant’s rights, but he also noted that people are generally allowed to criticize publicly the merits of the matter but cannot cross a line. He said Floyd seems “very boldly willing to explore where that line is” in this case.
McAfee said he believed the terms of Floyd’s bonds needed to be changed. He said he would give attorneys some time to discuss the proposed terms and would communicate with both sides around 5 p.m.
McAfee said he did not believe Floyd’s messages constituted bullying, emphasizing that they did not include the posting of personal information or any explicit wording that something should be done about people he mentioned. But he said the question was much more specific when it came to whether Floyd was trying to communicate directly or directly with witnesses or co-defendants, noting that people eventually saw his messages.
The charges against Floyd relate to allegations of harassment against Ruby Freeman, a Fulton County election worker who had been falsely accused of election fraud by Trump and his Republican supporters. Floyd participated in a conversation on Jan. 4, 2021, in which Freeman was told she “needed protection” and was forced to lie and say she had participated in voter fraud, according to the affidavit. ‘charge.
Floyd was among 18 people indicted along with Trump and accused of participating in a massive scheme to illegally try to keep the incumbent Republican in power even after he lost the presidential election to Democrat Joe Biden.
Four defendants pleaded guilty after reaching a deal with prosecutors that included a promise to testify at any trial in the case. Trump and the others have pleaded not guilty. No trial date has been set, but Willis last week asked McAfee to set it for August 5, 2024.
Floyd was the only defendant in this case to spend time in jail after his indictment, as he is the only one who did not have an attorney reach an agreement on bail conditions before going to jail of Fulton County. The conditions of his release include not communicating directly or indirectly about the facts of the case with any of his co-defendants or known witnesses.
Willis called three witnesses during Tuesday’s hearing: an investigator from his office, a senior official from the Georgia secretary of state’s office and an attorney for Freeman. She explained to them the many messages Floyd posted on social media.
The investigator said he contacted an attorney for Jenna Ellis, a co-defendant who pleaded guilty last month. The attorney said Ellis saw Floyd’s post accusing her of lying and thought it was intended to harass or intimidate her or encourage others to do so.
Gabriel Sterling, a senior official in the secretary of state’s office who vigorously defended the legitimacy of the state’s 2020 vote count against Trump’s false claims that he had won, said he saw the messages of Floyd insulting him and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. But he said positions like this are “normal” for a public servant.
Freeman’s attorney, Von Dubose, said a service his team paid to monitor threats against Freeman and his daughter noticed an increase in such activity related to Floyd’s posts. Floyd’s lawyers disputed that the threatening activity contained in that report could reasonably be attributed to his posts.
They also noted that while Trump’s bail order specifically places limits on certain social media posts as part of his bail conditions, Floyd’s does not. They argued that Floyd’s posts constituted protected speech and that attempting to communicate with someone by tagging them on social media was the equivalent of yelling at someone in a crowded stadium. They also argued that Floyd would not attack Freeman because he views her as a favorable witness in his defense.