CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Trump attorney Sidney Powell pleads guilty in Georgia election subversion case

Oct 19, 2023, 8:06 AM | Updated: Oct 25, 2023, 12:54 pm

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(CNN) — Former Donald Trump attorney Sidney Powell has pleaded guilty in the Georgia election subversion case, one day before her trial was set to start.

As part of her guilty plea, Powell is admitting her role in the January 2021 breach of election systems in rural Coffee County, Georgia. With the help of local GOP officials, a group of Trump supporters accessed and copied information from the county’s election systems in hopes of somehow proving that the election was rigged against Trump.

She pleaded guilty Thursday to six misdemeanors – six counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with performance of election duties – a significant reduction from the seven felonies she initially faced.

Fulton County prosecutors are recommending a sentence of six years probation. Powell will also be required to testify at future trials, write an apology letter to the citizens of Georgia, pay nearly $9,000 in restitution and fines and turn over documents.

Trump, a co-defendant in the Fulton County case, does not appear in Powell’s plea documents and was not mentioned at the brief plea hearing Thursday.

After the 2020 election, Powell had peddled conspiracy theories about purported fraud and false claims about millions of votes being flipped in a global scheme against Trump that involved Venezuela and other foreign powers.

She is now the second person in the sprawling racketeering case to plead guilty. Bail bondsman Scott Hall last month pleaded guilty and agreed to testify at future trials. The other 17 defendants, including Trump, have pleaded not guilty.

Powell admitted taking actions after the 2020 election “for the purpose of willfully tampering with electronic ballot markers and tabulating machines” and “with the intention of taking and appropriating information, data, and software, the property of Dominion Voting Systems Corporation,” according to new court filings.

She is also admitting to hiring a data forensics firm and sending its employees to Coffee County so they could unlawfully access government computers with the purpose of “examining personal voter data, with knowledge that such examination was without authority,” according to the filings.

Her attorneys had vehemently rejected prosecutors’ claims that she orchestrated the Coffee County breach. They’ve said at pretrial hearings that prosecutors are “incorrect” and that “the evidence will show that she was not the driving force behind” the incident.

“This is a really big breakthrough for the prosecutors,” CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig said on “News Central.”

“And it’s so important to understand there is no such thing as halfway cooperation. If you’re a prosecutor, you would not enter into this deal with Sidney Powell unless you had been thoroughly convinced that A, she is telling the truth, B. she is going to be able to testify for you credibly in the way that you can put in front of a jury, and justify and see she is not going to be splitting hairs,” added Honig, a former federal prosecutor.

Only one other Georgia defendant is mentioned by name in Thursday’s plea documents: Misty Hampton, who was the Coffee County elections supervisor during the 2020 election cycle. Powell admits to entering into a criminal conspiracy with Hampton and would be required to testify against her if she goes to trial. Hampton has pleaded not guilty to seven felonies.

Trial was to begin Friday

Fulton County judge McAfee had repeatedly denied Powell’s motions to get the case tossed or at least chip away at some of the most serious accusations, including the alleged RICO violation.

His most recent ruling came Wednesday night, when he rejected Powell’s arguments that the indictment violated her First Amendment rights.

The last-second plea drastically changes the trial that was supposed to begin Friday, with jury selection for Powell and co-defendant Kenneth Chesebro. They both invoked their rights to a speedy trial and became the first courtroom showdown in the sprawling case – but it now appears that Chesebro will move forward on his own.

Chesebro has pleaded not guilty to seven crimes related to his role in the fake-electors plot.

Legal jeopardy elsewhere

Beyond the Georgia case, Powell is still facing legal headaches.

She is an unindicted co-conspirator in the federal election subversion case that special counsel Jack Smith filed against Trump. That investigation has still been ongoing in recent months, and has been continuing to scrutinize Powell, CNN previously reported. She has not been charged in that case.

Additionally, Powell is facing massive defamation lawsuits from two voting technology companies, who sued her for falsely accusing them of rigging the 2020 election against Trump. The companies, Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic, filed the lawsuits in 2021, and the cases are still in the pre-trial discovery phase.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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Trump attorney Sidney Powell pleads guilty in Georgia election subversion case