By Kanishka Singh
(Reuters) -Former U.S. President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty on Thursday to a Georgia criminal indictment accusing him of trying to overturn his 2020 election defeat and asked to be tried separately from some of his 18 co-defendants.
Fulton County indicted Trump in August on 13 felony counts, including racketeering, for pressuring state officials to reverse his 2020 election loss in the state and allegedly setting up a fake slate of electors to undermine the congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden's victory.
"As evidenced by my signature below, I do hereby waive formal arraignment and enter my plea of NOT GUILTY to the Indictment in this case," Trump said in a court filing in Fulton County Superior Court.
The plea means that Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination, will not appear in person in an Atlanta court next week to face the charges.
Trump's lawyers also asked the judge to sever his case from some of his co-defendants who have sought a speedy trial. This would put Trump's case on a different schedule from that of a co-defendant, Kenneth Chesebro, a lawyer for Trump's 2020 campaign, whose trial is set to begin on Oct. 23.
Trump's lawyers argued they did not have sufficient time to prepare for the trial date set for Chesebro.
Fulton County prosecutors are seeking an October start to the trial. Some of Trump's co-defendants in Georgia, including attorney Sidney Powell, Trevian Kutti and Ray Smith, have also waived formal arraignment and entered not guilty pleas.
Rudy Giuliani, a former lawyer for Trump who led failed court challenges to the election results, said through a spokesperson on Thursday that he will waive arraignment and plead not guilty.
Jenna Ellis, another former Trump lawyer, pleaded not guilty on Thursday and waived her right to be arraigned in-person.
The 98-page Georgia indictment filed in mid-August charges Trump and the 18 other defendants with a total of 41 criminal counts.
The Georgia case is Trump's fourth indictment. He faces a New York state trial in March involving a hush money payment to a porn star and a federal trial in May in Florida for allegedly mishandling federal classified documents.
Another indictment, in federal court in Washington, accuses him of illegally seeking to overturn his 2020 election defeat. Trump is due to stand trial in March 2024 in that case, one day before Republican voters in more than a dozen U.S. states decide whether to give him a chance to recapture the White House.
Trump has pleaded not guilty in all criminal cases and could spend much of next year in court, even as he campaigns to retake the White House.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh, additional reporting by Andrew Goudsward and Jack Queen; Editing by Scott Malone, Howard Goller and Jonathan Oatis)