Prosecutor to decide if Georgia lieutenant governor should be charged in election meddling case

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ATLANTA (AP) — A special prosecutor has been assigned to look into whether Georgia Lt. Gov. Burt Jones should face criminal charges over efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in the state.

The Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia announced Thursday that its executive director, Pete Skandalakis, will handle the matter after Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis was barred from prosecuting Jones as part of her election interference case against former President Donald Trump and others.

Jones was one of 16 state Republicans who signed a certificate stating that Trump had won Georgia and declaring themselves the state’s “duly elected and qualified” electors even though Democrat Joe Biden had been declared the winner in the state. As a state senator in the wake of the election, he also sought a special session of Georgia’s Legislature aimed at overturning Biden’s narrow win in the state.

As Willis was investigating possible illegal election meddling by Trump and others, Jones argued that Willis should not be able to pursue charges against him because she had hosted a fundraiser for his Democratic opponent in the lieutenant governor’s race. Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney ruled in July 2022 that Willis’ actions created an “actual and untenable” conflict of interest.

McBurney’s ruling left it up to the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council, a nonpartisan state agency that supports district attorneys, to appoint a prosecutor to decide whether Jones should be charged. Right after Trump and the others were indicted, Skandalakis said he would begin looking for an appropriate prosecutor. But he instead decided to appoint himself.

The statement announcing Skandalakis’ appointment cites state bar rules and says that “no further comments will be made at this time.”

Jones has previously denied wrongdoing, saying he and other electors acted on advice of lawyers to preserve Trump’s chances if the former president won a court challenge that was pending at the time. Three others who signed the Republican elector certificate were among those indicted along with Trump in August by a Fulton County grand jury.

In a statement Thursday, Jones welcomed the news of Skandalakis’ appointment.

“I’m happy to see this process move forward and look forward to the opportunity to get this charade behind me,” Jones said. “Fani Willis has made a mockery of this legal process, as she tends to do. I look forward to a quick resolution and moving forward with the business of the state of Georgia.”

Trump and the 18 others indicted in August were accused of participating in a wide-ranging scheme to illegally try to overturn Trump’s loss in Georgia. Four people have pleaded guilty after reaching deals with prosecutors. The others, including the former president, have pleaded not guilty. No trial date has been set.

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Associated Press writer Jeff Amy in Atlanta contributed reporting.

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