Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Trump co-defendant Sidney Powell pleads guilty in Georgia election-interference case

By Holly Bailey and Amy Gardner Washington Post

ATLANTA – Just one day before jury selection was to begin in her criminal trial, Sidney Powell, a former member of Donald Trump’s legal team, pleaded guilty Thursday to illegally conspiring to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia.

Powell, a Dallas-based lawyer who espoused baseless conspiracy theories about the 2020 vote and filed a litany of failed lawsuits challenging the results, admitted guilt to six misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with the performance of election duties. She was sentenced to six years probation and agreed to pay a $6,000 fine and $2,700 in restitution to the state of Georgia, turn over documents and testify truthfully in her co-defendants’ trials.

She is the second of former president Trump’s 18 co-defendants in the sprawling racketeering case to accept a plea deal and agree to testify against co-defendants. The other is bail bondsman Scott Hall. Both faced charges related to their involvement in a secretive effort to access and copy elections software in rural Coffee County, Georgia, about two hours south of Atlanta.

But Powell is the first person with direct ties to Trump and his inner circle to plead guilty in the Georgia case. That development could have far-reaching implications for the former president, who is facing state and federal charges tied to his efforts to reverse his 2020 election loss. Powell is an unnamed co-conspirator in the federal case against Trump.

On Thursday, Powell pleaded guilty to several charges related to the alleged Coffee County scheme – including entering into a contract with the forensics firm SullivanStrickler – a sharp contrast to her posture in the case in recent weeks.

Powell attorney Brian Rafferty had vigorously claimed that his client had “nothing to do” with the breach in Coffee County – although he also has argued that what happened there was “authorized” by election officials there and not illegal.

Powell agreed to plead guilty to all aspects of the conspiracy that prosecutors have alleged – including paying employees of SullivanStrickler to travel to Coffee County and copy voter data “without authority” and to “interfere with, hinder and delay” the duties of Misty Hampton, the Coffee County elections director who also has been charged in the Georgia case.

The Washington Post was the first to report Powell’s involvement in the Coffee County breach.

Asked by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee whether she understood the charges to which she was pleading guilty, Powell replied, “I do.”

Powell was a key adviser to Trump who was briefly in his inner circle of confidants in the chaotic weeks after Election Day 2020 as the former president sought to remain in office.

She was present at an infamous Oval Office meeting on Dec. 18, 2020, that featured a shouting match – and near-blows – between a top White House lawyer and Michael Flynn, a former national security adviser who was helping Trump try to reverse his defeat.

In that meeting, Trump weighed seizing voting machines from key counties, deploying the National Guard potentially to rerun the election and even appointing Powell as a special counsel to investigate the election. Trump ultimately took none of those steps.

What remains unclear is how high up in the Trump campaign Powell’s actions regarding Coffee County were known and whether she will implicate co-defendants such as former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani or Trump himself when she testifies.

On Thursday, Assistant District Attorney Daysha Young of Fulton County indicated that Powell had given a video statement about the case, which was recorded Wednesday night, and that she would be sharing documents related to the Georgia investigation with the district attorney’s office. Young did not indicate the scope of what those documents cover.

Under the terms of Powell’s plea agreement, she is not allowed to speak to the media about the case or to others charged in the case.

Powell is licensed to practice law in Texas, where critics have sought unsuccessfully so far to have her license revoked as a result of her involvement in Trump’s effort to reverse his defeat in 2020. Her plea of guilty Thursday could revive that effort. According to the State Bar of Texas, lawyers face “compulsory” discipline if they are placed on probation for a “serious” or “intentional” offense, including conspiracy.

On Thursday, Rafferty, Powell’s attorney, successfully pushed for language in his client’s plea agreement that specified that the crimes to which she was pleading guilty did not involve “moral turpitude” – a distinction that could help Powell retain her law license. Similar language was included in Hall’s plea deal, which would allow him to continue to operate a bail bond business under Georgia law.

As part of her plea deal, Powell also agreed to write a letter of apology to the citizens of Georgia, a commitment her attorney said she had completed Wednesday.

Jury selection is still scheduled to proceed Friday for one of Powell’s co-defendants, the lawyer Kenneth Chesebro, who is accused of helping orchestrate the meeting of contingent electors in December 2020 to cast electoral votes for Trump despite Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

A lawyer for Chesebro did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Powell’s plea of guilty or whether his client also had received a plea offer. Prosecutors had previously indicated to McAfee that they would be making plea offers to Powell and Chesebro ahead of jury selection in the case.

In addition to the allegations about Coffee County, the indictment alleges that Trump and his co-defendants conspired to steal the 2020 election through a pressure campaign that included cajoling state officials, harassing local election workers and urging Trump electors to cast ballots in seven states that Biden won. Ultimately, the indictment alleges, the actions were aimed at persuading Congress and then-Vice President Mike Pence to accept Trump electors’ votes and not those of Biden electors during the final certification of the electoral college results on Jan. 6, 2021.

The Georgia case is the fourth criminal indictment against Trump this year. Special counsel Jack Smith has brought two federal cases against him, one in Washington alleging election interference and the other in Miami alleging that Trump mishandled classified documents after he left the White House. Trump also is charged in New York with falsifying business records in connection to hush money paid to the adult-film actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election. A federal judge previously rejected Trump’s attempt to move that case from state to federal court.