Trump Co-Defendant Donated to Judge Presiding Over Georgia Case

A co-defendant in the Georgia racketeering case against former President Trump donated to the 2024 campaign of the Atlanta judge presiding over the case, according to news reports. This revelation raises concerns about potential conflicts of interest in the high-profile case.

Ray Smith III, a co-defendant in the case, contributed $150 to Judge Scott McAfee’s campaign on May 25, 2023, according to campaign data filings reported by Newsweek. Smith was the first co-defendant to plead “not guilty” after a grand jury returned a sweeping indictment in District Attorney Fani Willis’ case against the former president’s co-conspirators.

Smith is accused of 12 counts of illegally asking state lawmakers to appoint a different set of electors from Georgia who would cast their votes for Trump in the Electoral College. In 2020, Smith participated in state legislative hearings on behalf of the Trump campaign, arguing that it was “impossible” to certify President Biden’s victory.

He claimed that Georgia’s election was “flawed” and argued that state lawmakers held the power to choose presidential electors in the event of gross “irregularities” in a presidential election. Smith presented the Trump campaign’s case to lawmakers that Georgia election code was not followed in 2020 – claims tossed out of court – and interviewed several witnesses put forward by Trump’s defense team.

McAfee won his primary election in May, fending off a challenge from a civil rights attorney and radio host, Robert Patillo. He has been a judge for just over a year, since Republican Gov. Brian Kemp appointed him to fill an empty seat, and will now serve a full four-year term beginning in January.

McAfee was randomly assigned the unprecedented case against the former president and presumptive 2024 GOP presidential nominee last year. Newsweek reported that Smith is not the first from the defense side of the case to contribute to McAfee. Wilmer Parker III, who represents co-defendant John Eastman, donated $500 to McAfee’s re-election campaign in March, according to the outlet.

The case against Trump is currently on pause until the Georgia Court of Appeals reviews Trump’s arguments that Willis should be disqualified. Earlier this year, McAfee allowed Willis to stay on the case only if Wade resigned or was removed.

In a three-day evidentiary hearing, Trump and co-defendants argued that Willis should be disqualified because she was in a romantic relationship with Wade prior to his hiring and that she financially benefited from his post in the DA’s office. Both Willis and Wade denied those claims.

In March, McAfee ruled that “neither side was able to conclusively establish by a preponderance of the evidence when the relationship evolved into a romantic one.” However, he added that “an odor of mendacity remains” and that “reasonable questions about whether the district attorney and her hand-selected lead SADA [special assistant district attorney] testified untruthfully about the timing of their relationship further underpin the finding of an appearance of impropriety and the need to make proportional efforts to cure it.”

He allowed Trump and his co-defendants to appeal his decision, which the Georgia Court of Appeals in May chose to take up. Oral arguments in that appeal are scheduled for October.

Smith did not immediately return Fox News Digital’s request for comment.

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