Sidney Powell, a prominent conservative lawyer who backed Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, pleaded guilty and could testify against the former president and others in the election racketeering case in Fulton County, Georgia.
(Bloomberg) — Sidney Powell, a prominent conservative lawyer who backed Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, pleaded guilty and could testify against the former president and others in the election racketeering case in Fulton County, Georgia.
Powell, 68, who was set to go on trial Monday, is the second of the 19 defendants to plead guilty in the case, in which Trump is also charged. She agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, meaning she could detail at trial her interactions with him and his inner circle after the election. She’s also barred from communicating with codefendants, witnesses, and the media until the case is over.
Powell appeared Thursday before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee to plead guilty to six misdemeanor counts of intentionally interfering with the performance of election duties. The agreement reached with prosecutors means she’ll avoid the most serious racketeering charge, a felony carrying up to 20 years in prison.
A person familiar with the situation said close advisers to Trump were surprised by the news that Powell had decided to plead guilty, but weren’t concerned that any testimony or other cooperation she would provide would hurt his defense.
Under her deal, Powell faces a sentence of six years of probation — 12 months per count — and a $6,000 fine and $2,700 in restitution. She was also required to write an apology letter to the citizens of the state of Georgia.
As part of the deal, Powell gave a recorded statement on Wednesday night about her actions, prosecutors said.
The guilty plea is “hugely significant,” said Clark Cunningham, a law professor at Georgia State University. “Powell may very well be a central person in the overall alleged RICO conspiracy. She could quite possibly be a damaging witness against Donald Trump.”
When asked about the Powell plea, Trump’s Georgia-based attorney Steve Sadow said in an email: “Assuming truthful testimony in the Fulton County case, it will be favorable to my overall defense strategy.”
No trial date for Trump has been set in Georgia. Trump is separately facing federal charges in Washington that he conspired to obstruct the 2020 election results. Powell matches the description of one of the unindicted co-conspirators, but she hasn’t been charged in that case.
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If Powell testifies, she would likely be questioned closely about some of her election fraud claims that had no apparent basis in fact. Powell was an architect of the conspiracy theory that the 2020 election was rigged by voting-machine companies and foreign hackers. Shortly after the election she appeared at a press conference alongside Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, where she alleged a plot to swing the election to President Joe Biden that involved voting-machine tampering and Venezuela.
She was kicked off the campaign legal team in late November 2020, but continued to press false election fraud claims and advise Trump. Vowing to release the “kraken” — an allusion to the ancient mythological monster — Powell pursued multiple failed election contests in courts across the country to try to overturn Biden’s wins in battleground states.
In mid-December, she and other conservative activists clashed with White House officials during an Oval Office meeting with Trump. Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel at the time, told congressional investigators that he had pushed back on a proposal to appoint Powell as a special counsel to probe voter fraud claims.
Her guilty plea focused on her role in conspiring to unlawfully access election equipment in Coffee County, Georgia — about 200 miles from Atlanta — and interfere with the duties of the county’s election director at the time, Misty Hampton, a codefendant. Hampton has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors say Powell entered into a contract with an Atlanta firm that copied software and voter data from the county’s election equipment in early January 2021. Her alleged co-conspirators “stole data, including ballot images, voting equipment software, and personal voter information,” according to the indictment.
Powell, a former federal prosecutor, is facing legal disciplinary action in Texas, her home state, as well as in Michigan, where she brought one of the 2020 lawsuits.
The first trial in the Georgia case is still set to begin Monday in downtown Atlanta against Kenneth Chesebro, another lawyer who had worked with Trump’s campaign. He is accused of racketeering, as well as illegally trying to interfere with the election results and overturn Biden’s wins in battleground states. Chesebro and Powell had requested a “speedy trial” under Georgia law, prompting McAfee to sever their cases from the rest of the group.
A lawyer for Chesebro did not immediately return a request for comment.
Chesebro had rejected a plea deal offer from the district attorney’s office in late September, according to ABC News.
Assuming Chesebro’s trial goes forward, it’s expected to provide a preview to other defendants of the evidence Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has assembled and how the prosecutors in her office will present it to jurors.
In late September, bail bondsman Scott Hall became the first defendant in the case to plead guilty. He also admitted being part of the Coffee County scheme and pleaded guilty to five of the same misdemeanor conspiracy counts as Powell.
(Updates with details about Powell’s possible testimony against Trump)
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