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Atlanta court explains 'mishap,' release of 'fictitious' Trump filing

A Fulton County court in Atlanta mistakenly released a 'sample' document some outlets shared as the returned indictment, which was quickly retracted.
Atlanta court explains 'mishap,' release of 'fictitious' Trump filing
Posted at 2:37 PM, Aug 15, 2023

As the country and the media awaited the release of court documents late Monday afternoon from an Atlanta courthouse on the fate of Trump's legal future, a mistaken filing caused quite a stir. 

Fulton County's Clerk of Superior and Magistrate Courts, Che Alexander, said the "mishap" was quickly fixed, but not before some media outlets shared the "fictitious document."

Alexander said in a statement that a media outlet, using a court software program that allows the press to search for court documents, was able to "obtain" a document that was meant to be just a test document entered into the court's software and documents storage system called Odyssey. 

The Fulton County court said, "In anticipation of issues that arise with entering a potentially large indictment, Alexander used charges that pre-exist in Odyssey to test the system and conduct a trial run."

It was at that time that the test document was inadvertently released to some media outlets, causing a moment of confusion as the public waited to hear if Trump would be indicted, and if so, on how many counts, and with what co-defendants. 

As reported on Monday, the Fulton County court clerk's office released a statement saying that Reuters and media outlets in Georgia published news about the test document, and the court urged the media to make corrections as they didn't intend for the test document to become public. 

When the real indictment later came through on the platform, after it was returned by a grand jury and unsealed, it was large: At over 95 pages, it listed Trump and 18 other defendants, and outlined a list of various charges for each defendant, including those for alleged violations of Georgia's RICO Act

SEE MORE: Who else is mentioned in the Georgia indictment against Trump?

The court said upon learning of the "mishap" the test document was "immediately removed," and the court issued "correspondence notifying the media that a fictitious document was in circulation and that no indictment" at the time "had been returned by a grand jury," which happened later on Monday night. 

The statement from the Fulton County court said, "Unfortunately, the sample working document led to the docketing of what appeared to be an indictment, but which was, in fact, only a fictitious docket sheet."

The court said that the media has access to documents in the system before they are fully "published." Because the test document had a case number on it and a filing date, some members of the media believed it was an official document. However, the court said the document did not have a signed "true" or "no" bill on it, nor did it have an official stamp with Clerk Alexander's name on it. For that reason, it was and still is considered by the court to be just a test sample document. 

Later that night, Alexander could be seen on camera walking into the Atlanta courtroom with media present to hand Judge Robert McBurney a stack of papers, presumed to have been the indictment. 

McBurney asked the media to leave the room, citing Rule 22 which concerns the use of electric devices in court when not permitted. 

It was then that the unsealing process began, and Alexander was later able to file the indictment with a stamp and seal. 

Fulton County's clerk of courts said the office "understands the confusion that this matter caused and the sensitivity of all court filings."

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