Next year, 15 indicted individuals will stand trial in Fulton County, Georgia. They’ll confront racketeering charges regarding overturning the state’s 2020 presidential election results. But 19 were charged. What happened?
Four defendants flipped. The prosecution gained four major weapons.
Last month, Scott Hall, a bail bondsman, pled guilty. Relatively small potatoes, he received five years’ probation and agreed to testify at trials related to this case. This created pressure above.
The day before her trial was to start, Sidney Powell, a lawyer who counseled Trump after the election and proclaimed bizarre conspiracy theories, pled guilty. D.A. Fani Willis agreed to reduce charges to six misdemeanors and probation in return for Powell’s testimony at related trials.
The next day, Kenneth Cheseboro, a legal advisor to Trump charged with conspiring to establish a slate of fake electors and faced with Powell’s possible condemning testimony, also pled guilty. Charges were reduced to a single felony. Cheseboro received probation—and agreed to testify.
Last Tuesday, Jenna Ellis, a lawyer who challenged the 2020 results on Trump’s behalf, entered her guilty plea. Addressing the court in tears, she admitted failing to do due diligence. (In March, Ellis admitted in a sworn statement in Colorado that she’d knowingly misrepresented the facts in several claims she made.)
Who will flip next? Perhaps some lesser defendants have bargained with prosecutors, their pleas awaiting future announcement. The matter at hand: Testimony from Powell, Cheseboro and Ellis may impact higher ups, including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, now cooperating with DOJ special counsel Jack Smith; ex-Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark; and Trump lawyer John Eastman, who schemed to present slates of false electors in swing states Trump lost.
Will Meadows, Clark and Eastman flip? They won’t face a jury for months, so it’s easy to bluster about innocence and resolve to fight the charges. But when a trial approaches, even the most staunch defendant may develop second thoughts. Testimony from someone involved in their alleged crimes—someone who’s pled guilty—could put them behind bars.
What if Willis refuses to agree to probation? Faced with the real possibility of conviction, the accused might agree to reduced sentences. No question, they’ll have to consent to testify, probably against the two people at the top of the conspiracy ladder: Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and Trump himself.
If so, I wouldn’t put money on a jury sending Giuliani home free. If he flips, Trump is toast.
Let me emphasize that each of the remaining defendants is innocent until and unless proven guilty. The prosecution bears the burden of proof. Testimony must be truthful, whether it helps or hurts the prosecution. (Perjury can bring heavy penalties.) A jury then must reach its own conclusions.
Moreover, while I despise Trump, my chief concern is that justice be done with an even hand. The prosecution failing to make its case requires a verdict of not guilty.
Finally, have the current plea bargains influenced some of Trump’s supporters? Likely, only a handful. New Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R.–La.) recruited representatives to support a lawsuit to overturn the 2020 election. The far right displays little regard for truth.
Meanwhile, 14 non-Trump defendants must flip through their options and decide whether flipping works for them. Prison can be a strong motivator.
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