A grand jury in Georgia is worried that witnesses lied during their investigation of former President Donald Trump and his allies’ attempts to meddle in the state’s 2020 election. This raises the possibility that charges could be brought.
When parts of the long-awaited grand jury report on the Trump investigation are released on Thursday, they could include descriptions of the alleged lies. Legal experts say that prosecutors could use perjury charges as a way to expand the investigation, even though the witnesses won’t be named and no one has been charged.
Legal experts say that charges of lying to investigators or perjury are rare because they can be hard to prove and are often not important to the main case. But in the past few years, federal prosecutors have found witnesses guilty of lying to authorities during investigations of Trump.
A part of the grand jury report on Trump is coming Thursday, a judge in Georgia orders the release of parts of the Trump grand jury report.
Clark Cunningham, a law professor at Georgia State University, said, “That widens the range of people who could be charged.” “It also gives the district attorney the chance to move forward with perjury charges right away, which would be pretty simple.”
Experts in the law say that a Georgia perjury charge, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, could be used to get testimony for more serious conspiracy charges that carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis hired an expert in conspiracy cases against Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO), and legal experts say she may file RICO charges in this case.
In a RICO charge, it is said that the suspect committed at least two crimes as part of a pattern of criminal behaviour. In the past few decades, state and federal prosecutors, like Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, have used RICO laws to fight organised crime and drug dealing. Dozens of crimes, like lying under oath, taking money, or messing with witnesses or evidence, can be used to build a RICO case.
Some lawyers think that Willis will use the RICO law in her investigation of Trump because she has used it against Atlanta school officials and alleged gang members.
Tom Morgan, who teaches criminology at Western Carolina University and used to be the district attorney in DeKalb County, Georgia, said that he probably wouldn’t pursue perjury charges from a grand jury on their own because they are hard to prove. But he said that crimes like perjury could be part of a larger RICO case.
Morgan said, “It makes the other counts in the RICO case stronger because it shows a pattern of hiding things.” “Juries don’t like that.”
Georgia law says that people who lie can go to jail for one to ten years and pay a fine of up to $1,000 if they are found guilty. It is defined as making a false statement under oath in a court case that is important to the case “knowingly and willfully.”
Judge Robert McBurney of the Fulton County Superior Court said that the part of the report that will be made public on Thursday “discusses the concern that some witnesses may have lied under oath when they testified to the grand jury.”