ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Jeremy Telman
Oklahoma City University
School of Law

Monday, October 30, 2023

The Plea Deals in State of Georgia v. Trump

Nineteen were indicted in the Georgia election case.  Four have now pled guilty.  All four have agreed to cooperate with the prosecutors in the case against the remaining co-conspirators.  

A plea agreement is a contract.  Cooperation is offered in exchange for leniency in sentencing.  The terms of those agreements have been described in the media as generous, in that the defendants will all avoid jail time, assuming good behavior.  In some cases, they get to keep their law licenses, although state bars might determine otherwise down the road. Of interest beyond that are the specifics about what cooperation entails and the penalty for breach. If criminal plea agreements are reduced to writing somewhere, I have been unable to find online versions of the plea agreements in Georgia v. Trump, which is a shame.  I will have to cobble together the terms from news reports on the court proceedings on the matter. 

The first to enter a plea was bail bondsman Scott Hall (right)Screenshot 2023-10-26 at 5.44.40 PM, perhaps the least notorious of the alleged criminal conspirators.  According to Richard Fausset and e pled guilty to five misdemeanor counts of intentional interference with performance of election duties.  He had been charged with racketeering and felony conspiracy in connection with tampering with voting equipment in Coffee County, Georgia in January 2021 in an attempt to discover evidence of voting fraud at the behest of the Trump campaign.  

According to the plea deal, he will serve five years of probation.  He will pay a $5000 fine and apologize to the people of Georgia.  He will have to perform 200 hours of community service and surrender his license to carry a firearm.  He may not participate in activities relating to the administration of an election.  He agreed to testify against his co-conspirators, which is bad news for two other defendants, Misty Hampton and Cathy Latham, who allegedly participated in the Coffee County scheme.  Defendant David Shafer the former head of the Republican Party in Georgia, also seems to have ties to Mr. Hall through Mr. Hall's brother-in law, David Bossie.

Sidney PowellThe next to fall was Sidney “Release the Kraken” Powell (left).   and  provide in-depth coverage in The New Yorker on what led Ms. Powell to plead guilty. She pled guilty to six misdemeanor counts of election interference and will have to pay nearly $9000 in fines and serve six years of probation.  She has apologized the the people of Georgia and agreed to testify in the proceedings against her co-conspirators.

Ms. Powell was engaged in a lot of election fraud shenanigans, but she, like Mr. Hall, was convicted for allegedly tampering with voting machines in Coffee County.  Misty Hampton, the county's election supervisor, apparently bought into Ms. Powell's nutter idea that Dominion voting machines had been tampered with.  She refused to certify her county's election results.  The story in The New Yorker provides a lot of details I had not read elsewhere.  It took a long time to discover what happened in Coffee County, because Georgia's secretary of state blocked efforts to learn whether the voting records has been illegally accessed.  An election watchdog group investigated and was able to issue subpoenas.  Their forensic expert was able to confirm a breach, and the rest was expected to come out in Fani Willis's case.

The New Yorker obtained a copy of a 400-page report by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI).  It details what might have been the basis for Ms. Powell's rather surprising decision to plead guilty.  Among other things, it seems clear that Powell and her co-conspirators, including Ms. Hampton and Ms. Latham, represented to their hired forensics experts that they had permission to access election equipment when they did not.  Ms. Powell had pursued a litigation strategy of trying to persuade the court that her involvement in the alleged conspiracy could be limited to conduct in Coffee County on January 7th.  The fact that she paid the outside experts who were given illegal access to voting data suggests a larger role.  The New Yorker seems to suggest that she pled guilty when she did once it became clear that she was going to be implicated in wider illegality.

ChesebroNext came Kenneth Chesebro.  According to Richard Fausset and 

Jenna Ellis by Gage Skidmore
Image by Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

And finally, yesterday, Jenna Ellis joined the ranks of those who have entered guilty pleas.  According to Richard Fausset and 

Richard Fausset and 

What's next, you might ask?  This is not my area of expertise, but from the perspective of my position as an armchair prosecutor, it seems that these Misty Hampton and Cathy Latham are left looking very exposed, and the noose also seems to be tightening around John Eastman's neck.  Rudy Giuliani has already confessed to lies in another Georgia case and is reportedly running out of funds to pay his attorneys.  I would be surprised if there weren't more plea agreements on the way to trial, unless the prosecutors, thinking they already have enough witnesses, are no longer interested in offering such generous terms.  They may not need to.

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