Three reasons why Trump’s arrest in Georgia may be different

Donald Trump
(Image: Reuters)

When Donald Trump turns himself in as expected at about 7pm Eastern Time on Thursday in Georgia to be charged with an election plot, the process may follow a script unlike his previous three arrests this year.

During bookings in New York, Florida and Washington DC – where the former president has pleaded not guilty – he got special treatment.

Here’s why this time could be different.

A first mugshot?

The former president has until now been spared a booking photo and having to interact with other criminal defendants.

But Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat has said the department’s “normal practices” will be followed when processing Mr Trump.

So far, two of his alleged co-conspirators have already been booked into the Fulton County Jail, which is notorious for hazardous conditions that some inmates endure for months.

At the jail, defendants typically undergo a series of procedures, including a medical screening, fingerprinting and a warrants check.

Mr Trump may also be subjected to his first mugshot, as the county’s normal steps include photographing all its defendants.

“The Fulton County Jail, amongst jails, is a very disturbingly dysfunctional place,” said Rachel Kaufman, an attorney in Atlanta.

Mr Trump and his 18 co-defendants “are going to witness some level of that dysfunction” when processed, she said.

Still, the former president won’t be kept in a holding cell overnight like many other defendants, said Ms Kaufman.

“He’s not going to feel the full force of what an average person experiences in the Fulton County Jail when they’ve been charged with several felonies,” she said.

“And what they experience is their life being put at risk.”

A televised appearance

Mr Trump’s proceedings in Georgia – where he is expected to plead not guilty – could be the first time the public actually sees him in court.

To date, video cameras have not been allowed during Mr Trump’s arraignments in New York, Washington DC and Miami.

That’s because New York state and federal courtrooms do not usually allow video and microphone recordings.

But the state of Georgia does.

It’s up to the judge to decide whether cameras are allowed, said Ms Kaufman, adding that the judge assigned to Mr Trump’s arraignment, Scott McAfee, has often allowed them in the past.

“He’s a full transparency judge,” she said. “My guess is that whatever happens in front of him is going to be televised.”

That could mean cameras in the courtroom for Mr Trump’s potential trial, too.

It would not be the first time that one of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ high-profile cases took place on screen.

In 2014 and 2015, an eight-month long trial involving a controversial Atlanta Public School cheating scandal was broadcast on television and radio, capturing the attention of locals.

A slim chance of pardon

Mr Trump floated the idea of pardoning himself before leaving the White House in 2021, and some have suggested he might attempt to do so in the criminal cases against him if elected president in 2024.

But experts say that would be much harder for the top Republican candidate to pull off in the state of Georgia.

For one, presidents can only issue pardons for federal crimes, and Mr Trump is facing state charges in Georgia.

Mr Trump would not be able to appeal to Georgia’s governor for a pardon either, because unlike many other states, the governor there is not allowed to issue them.

Instead, Georgia’s State Board of Pardons and Paroles is responsible for issuing pardons, which it only does five years after a convicted person has completed his or her sentence.

Mr Trump is facing up to 20 years in prison in Georgia if convicted of the most severe charge of racketeering.

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