Stanley Dunlap, Georgia Recorder
Texas attorney Sidney Powell pleaded guilty to election interference charges in Fulton County Superior Court on Thursday, one day before jury selection was scheduled to begin for her trial.
As part of the plea deal, Powell was sentenced to six years of probation for conspiring to interfere with the performance of election duties for orchestrating a Coffee County elections system breach following the 2020 presidential election.
On Thursday, Powell became the second defendant to have the terms of a plea agreement accepted by Fulton Judge Scott McAfee in a sweeping case that alleges Donald Trump and 18 of his allies illegally colluded to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia, Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Washington, D.C.
Powell’s plea now means that her co-defendant Kenneth Chesebro is set to stand trial alone, with plans to convene a 450-person jury pool on Friday to fill out a lengthy jury questionnaire.
According to the plea agreement, Powell agreed to testify in other election interference trials about the hacking of voting machines and software that occurred in rural south Georgia shortly after the incumbent Republican president lost the state of Georgia by less than 12,000 votes to Democratic President Joe Biden.
In the weeks following Trump’s 2020 presidential election loss in Georgia, Powell peppered the courts with filings claiming election fraud, she dubbed the “Kraken” legal challenge at the time.
Powell has written an apology to the secretary of state’s office and Georgia residents. She will also pay a $6,000 fine as well as $2,700 in restitution to the state. On Aug. 14, a grand jury formally charged Powell with seven felony charges in which the 19 defendants were each charged with violating Georgia’s RICO Act (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act).
Prosecutors said that by successfully completing all terms of her probation, Powell’s conviction of six counts of misdemeanor conspiracy to commit intentional interference with election duties will be sealed from her criminal record.
Emory University Law professor Fred Smith Jr. said Powell’s guilty plea wasn’t surprising since most defendants in state criminal court reach plea agreements with prosecutors.
As part of her plea Powell also provide prosecutors with a recorded proffer interview in which she describes her involvement in the case.
“If she says something inconsistent while testifying, (prosecutors) will be able to use that video to undermine her credibility,” Smith said.
On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that Chesebro acknowledged Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election were based on a political agenda, a revelation that could undercut Chesebro’s claims in the Fulton case that Trump lawyers were only focused on legal advice.
Voting breach takes front stage
Powell admitted Thursday that she hired forensic computer experts to compromise voting software and other confidential voter information from the Coffee County elections office in early 2021. She also agreed that prosecutors would have proven during trial that Powell, along with several co-conspirators, plotted with Coffee County elections director Misty Hampton to illegally access election machines by tampering with electronic ballot markers, voting software and other equipment.
In the weeks before Powell pleaded guilty, her attorney Bill Rafferty repeatedly argued that she had no direct involvement in setting up the visits to the Coffee elections office.
One of Powell’s co-defendants, Scott Hall, a bail bondsman from Atlanta, entered a plea of guilty on Sept. 29 and received five years probation and $5,000 fine for misdemeanor charges related to illegally accessing voting equipment in Coffee County.
Powell is also being investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for her role in hacking into Coffee County’s election system.
The breach was uncovered last year by the plaintiffs in a longstanding lawsuit challenging the security of the state’s electronic voting system. Earlier this month, the GBI discovered more than 15,000 emails and documents from Hampton’s desktop computer that the attorneys for the Coffee County Board of Elections had claimed were lost.
Hampton has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges in the Fulton racketeering case.
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