Pre-trial motions heard in first Cop City RICO trial

ATLANTA—On Mon., January 8, Judge Kimberly Adams heard a series of pre-trial motions in the case of Ayla King, one of the 61 RICO defendants in the Stop Cop City movement in Atlanta.

King, who is 19 years old, is the only defendant to receive a speedy trial.

[ For our last report on the Cop City 61 RICO trials, click here. ]

King was arrested on March 5, 2023, during the a music festival in the park area of the forest and was charged with domestic terrorism. That evening, police raided the festival and indiscriminately arrested 35 people, including a legal observer from the National Lawyers Guild. Of them, 23 were charged with domestic terrorism. This brought the total number of individuals charged under Georgia’s vague domestic terrorism statute to 42.

None of those accused of domestic terrorism have been indicted by a grand jury. However, they are all now included in the RICO indictment, which was released by  Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr in early September 2023.

Here is a rundown of the motions heard in court today by Judge Adams:

• Adams ruled in favor of the defense in allowing selective prosecution arguments in cross examination. This means the defense can argue, for example, that the defendants are being politically targeted and prosecuted.

• Adams did not quash two of the defense’s subpoenas of Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) employees who are witnesses in the case. She allowed for restricted document review of GBI personnel files.

• Adams ruled in favor of the state in their motion to admit Manuel “Tortuguita” Terán’s alleged diary into evidence by allowing the state to introduce any portion of the diary deemed “relevant” to the case. Terán was violently killed by Georgia state police in the park near the forest on January 18, 2023. Autopsies showed that Terán was shot 13 to 14 times, sustaining 57 bullet wounds; reports also revealed they did not have gunpowder residue on their hands. The GBI has refused to turn over evidence to Terán’s for an independent investigation.

• After cross-examining an Atlanta police officer, Adams ruled in favor of the defense that a bail fund number being memorized cannot be used as incriminating evidence, since police reportedly asked if King needed the bail fund number after they said they did not want to talk to the police. Atlanta bail fund organizers, who are also included in the Cop City RICO indictment, were targeted by the state in May 2023.

• Adams ruled against the defense in finding probable cause to include a phone that was allegedly taken from King on the day of arrest. Although there was nothing on the phone, the prosecution argued that having a burner itself is incriminating.

• Prosecutor John Fowler said the state plans to call around 45 witnesses, with about 30 of those being law enforcement officers.

• Finally, Adams denied a special motion to dismiss the case entirely on the grounds that the indictment itself is “fatally defective.”

King had been offered a plea deal, which they denied and instead continued to assert their right for a speedy trial. Proceedings will resume on Wed., January 10, at Fulton County Superior Court at 9 a.m.

All details of this report have been provided and verified by observers at the Fulton County Superior Court on January 8, 2024.

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