ATLANTA — Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said she'll announce whether former President Donald Trump and his allies will face charges tied to alleged criminal interference in Georgia's 2020 election some time between mid-July and the start of September.
According to a letter hand delivered to Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat on Monday, Willis said she will be "announcing charging decisions" related to the investigation during the fourth term of Fulton County's Superior Court, which runs from July 11 to Sept. 1.
"Open-source intelligence has indicated the announcement of decisions in this case may provoke a significant public reaction," Willis wrote. "We have seen in recent years that some may go outside of public expressions of opinion that are protected by the First Amendment to engage in acts of violence that will endanger the safety our community. As leaders, it is incumbent upon us to prepare."
The letter is meant to give the sheriff's office time to "coordinate with local, state and federal agencies to ensure that our law enforcement community is ready to protect the public," Willis added.
A similar letter was also sent to the Atlanta's Chief of Police, Darin Schierbaum. In her letter, Willis said she had a meeting with Schierbaum and Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens last week. In that meeting, Willis gave them an outline of when charging decisions would come.
The police letter is nearly identical to the one Labat received.
"The Atlanta Police Department is in receipt of a hand-delivered letter from District Attorney Fani Willis regarding potential unrest related to a charging decision her office will announce in the coming months," the department said in a statement. "The Atlanta Police Department will continue to monitor the potential for unrest throughout our city. We stand ready to respond to demonstrations to ensure the safety of those in our communities and those exercising their First Amendment right, or to address illegal activity, should the need arise."
It's unclear if other Atlanta-area law enforcement agencies received similar notices.
The letters mark the first time Willis has laid out a timeline for the potential criminal case against Trump and others.
Former DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James, who is not associated with the Fulton County investigation, told 11Alive Monday evening that it makes sense for Willis to put law enforcement on notice.
"This is an issue that has split our country, people feel very passionate about it," James said. “What If you look up and there are 20,000 people outside of the Fulton County Courthouse and you have not prepared for it? We've seen this movie before at the Capitol building.”
Fulton County Superior Court judges voted in January 2022 to impanel the special purpose grand jury at Willis' request. Its goal was to investigate alleged violations of state law committed by Trump and his allies in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election as they worked to change the outcome.
The jury began its work in May 2022, and it was dissolved in January 2023 after completing its final report.
The panel heard from 75 witnesses during its eight-month investigation. Jury foreperson Emily Kohrs previously said the final report recommended indictments against more than a dozen people. She did not reveal the recommended charges or the identities of those individuals.
In January, Willis told reporters that charging decisions tied to the investigation were imminent. To seek indictments, Willis must take the case to a regular grand jury. Special purpose grand juries lack the power to issue indictments in Georgia.
Much of the Fulton County Special Purpose Grand Jury's report remains a secret. The full document could be released once charging decisions are made.
James said it is an unusual letter for a prosecutor to send, but this is an extraordinary case. The letter is telling the world more than just the words Willis put on paper.
“The message is: I'm ready to go," James said. "That's the message. You know that everything is in place, that we know what we're doing, and we know who was the subject of this indictment or these indictments. And we’re ready to move forward.”