Case against Georgia’s lieutenant governor for alleged 2020 fake elector scheme awaits prosecutor

Scales of Justice with the word justice over it.

by Stanley Dunlap, Georgia Recorder [This article first appeared in the Georgia Recorder, republished with permission]

August 23, 2023

A special prosecutor could soon determine if Republican Lt. Gov. Burt Jones joins a long list of defendants indicted in the 2020 presidential election interference case that has already ensnared a state senator and former President Donald Trump as he seeks a second term in the White House.

Several days ago, the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia began the search for a special prosecutor to review Jones’ involvement as a state senator at the time of the election in November 2020. Jones was among 16 illegitimate GOP electors who signed false certificates declaring Trump the Georgia winner, despite confirmed election results showing Biden by nearly 12,000 votes ahead of the incumbent.

“In almost every case in which an elected prosecutor has conflicted off a case, (prosecuting council) has had to go out and find someone to take the case,” executive director Peter Skandalakis said in a text message. “And, no one has volunteered to take this particular case.”

Trump is scheduled to turn himself into the Fulton County jail on Thursday on charges related to being one of the ringleaders in an alleged criminal racketeering and conspiring to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia and several other states. 

The grand jury indictments on Aug. 14 resulted in multiple felony counts against 19 defendants, including Trump and his former personal attorneys Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman, ex-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and several false electoral college voters, including freshman Georgia state Sen. Shawn Still, a Norcross Republican, and David Shafer, a former Georgia Republican Party chairman and state legislator. 

Read the 98-page indictment here.

Earlier this year, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis was disqualified by a judge from pursuing any charges against Jones since she raised money for the eventual Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2022. 

There is no timetable to appoint a prosecutor to take up Jones’ case, but Willis has said that she would like the election interference trial to start in April, a relatively short time frame for a complex and historic case that could see multiple defendants tried at the same time.

It would be in the prime days of the calendar for a Republican presidential primary, in which Trump is heavily favored.

Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, believes the fallout from the Fulton County election case and other investigations against Trump could play a role in a rematch between Biden and Trump in November of 2024. 

Still’s Senate seat will also be up for election next year, and Jones will be halfway through his four-year term as Senate president. It is possible that Still’s suburban Atlanta district will swing more Blue by the time of his election, placing him under more of a threat from a challenger, Bullock said.

He said that Still or Jones would be most at risk of being barred from serving in public office in Georgia if they were convicted of a felony. There’s also the possibility that close ties to Trump could hurt some at the polls.

“I think we’ve already seen that Lt. Gov. Jones’ close affiliation with Trump has already cost him,” he said. “Last year, he had the weakest (election performance) out of all the Republicans who won election statewide. It wasn’t a nail-biter, but he was several percentage points behind Gov. Kemp, Attorney General Chris Carr and (Secretary of State) Brad Raffensperger.”

In a recent statement, Jones promised to tell his full side of the story and has previously called the GOP electoral votes a legally valid maneuver in case judges ruled in favor of Trump-backed lawsuits challenging the election. 

Republican senators fire back at Willis

Jones and several of his colleagues are criticizing Willis, claiming she is running a politically biased investigation that unfairly attacks Trump and other Republicans.

Republican Sens. Colton Moore, of Trenton, and Clint Dixon, of Gwinnett County, are vowing to have Willis sanctioned or potentially expelled from her office for abusing the justice system. Dixon on Monday posted on social media his plans to file a complaint this fall against Willis over her handling of the election interference case once the state’s new commission with the power to sanction county prosecutors convenes. 

In March, the Legislature passed the controversial law creating a commission to punish prosecutors and solicitors general who fail to prosecute low-level crimes, as well as establish guidelines for removing prosecutors from elected office for willful and prejudicial conduct.

Democratic lawmakers and Willis have criticized the Republican-backed measure as an overreaction to high-profile cases and for challenging prosecutors’ discretion in determining the merit of cases.

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