Monday, October 02, 2023

First Trump co-defendant pleads guilty in Georgia election case. (WaPo)

Let justice be done.  First guilty plea.  Looking forward to bail bondsman Scott Hall's truthful, candid testimony in state court in Atlanta, Georgia. Looking forward to a possible Gambino-style rollup.

 From The Washington Post:

First Trump co-defendant pleads guilty in Georgia election case

Scott Hall, a bail bondsman, was accused of playing a wide-ranging role in efforts to overturn former president Donald Trump’s Georgia defeat in 2020

A supporter of Donald Trump holds a cutout of him during a “Stop the Steal” rally outside the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta on Nov. 21, 2020 (Kevin D. Liles for The Washington Post)

ATLANTA — A defendant in the sweeping election-interference case against former president Donald Trump and 18 others in Fulton County, Ga., became the first to plead guilty on Friday. He also agreed to testify against others.

Scott Hall, a 59-year-old bail bondsman who prosecutors alleged played a wide-ranging role in efforts to overturn Trump’s loss in Georgia, pleaded guilty to five counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with the performance of election duties. The felony charges were reduced to misdemeanors because of Hall’s status as a first-time offender.

Hall agreed to serve five years of probation and, importantly for the prosecution’s case, to testify “truthfully in this case and all further proceedings.” That could affect the fortunes of those with whom he is alleged to have interacted, including pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, whose own trial in the case is set to begin Oct. 23, as well as former Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark.

One looming question in the case is how high into the Trump campaign’s hierarchy Hall’s reach extended — and whether the former president or Rudy Giuliani, another co-defendant who led efforts to prove that election fraud had tainted the race, ever interacted with him.

According to an email written by then-state GOP Chairman David Shafer, Hall was acting at the request of David Bossie, the Republican operative, onetime deputy Trump campaign manager, chairman of the conservative activist group Citizens United — and a relative of Hall’s. Bossie did not respond to requests for comment.

Hall’s plea was one of multiple victories logged Friday by Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis. The other wins came when a judge denied efforts by Clark and three other co-defendants to move their cases to federal court.

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Willis launched the investigation into Trump and his allies in February 2021, shortly after the former president’s now-famous phone exhortation to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn the Georgia result.

The sweeping indictment, filed in August, alleges that Trump and his co-defendants operated a vast criminal enterprise for the purpose of illegally reversing Trump’s defeat against Biden in the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. All 19 defendants were charged with participating in a racketeering enterprise. Hall had faced six additional charges, including conspiracy to commit computer theft, related to the breach of voting equipment in remote Coffee County.

Prosecutors alleged in the 98-page indictment that Hall served as a linchpin of a secretive effort to access and copy Coffee County elections software, working alongside Powell, who allegedly retained the forensic data team that accompanied Hall and others on the trip. As part of his efforts to turn up evidence of voter fraud, Hall gained the ear of top officials not just in Georgia but also in Washington.

In the weeks after the election, Hall also held meetings or had phone conversations with leaders of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, according to people involved. Prosecutors say that on Jan. 2, 2021, he had a 63-minute phone call with Clark, whom prosecutors accused of plotting to delegitimize the vote in Georgia and other states and galvanize slates of contingent pro-Trump electors.

Hall was sentenced to five years’ probation with a $5,000 fine. According to the terms of his plea deal read in open court Friday afternoon, Hall agreed to write a letter of apology in addition to giving testimony. He was ordered to have no contact with victims, witnesses or defendants in the case and was also ordered not to speak to members of the news media, according to Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee.

Hall appeared before McAfee on Friday afternoon as a Fulton County prosecutor read several statements related to Hall’s plea agreement in open court.

“Do you understand that by pleading guilty you’re giving up the right to appeal if convicted of these charges after trial?” Daysha Young, an executive Fulton County district attorney, asked Hall.

“Yes, ma’am,” Hall replied.

“Has anyone force threatened or promised you anything to get you to enter into this?”

“No, ma’am,” Hall said.

Asked how he pleaded to the five counts, Hall replied, “Guilty.”

Young briefly outlined the case that she said prosecutors would have made against Hall at trial, stressing his alleged ties to Powell. She said the two defendants, along with other co-conspirators, entered into a conspiracy to interfere with the official duties of the elections director in Coffee County.

The ultimate goal of the criminal conspiracy was to unlawfully access all election machines in Coffee County, Georgia, that were utilized in the November 3, 2020, presidential election in Georgia in order to obtain proprietary data, the property of Dominion Voting Systems,” Young said.

She added that Hall, Powell and others conspired to “intentionally interfere with and hinder” the official duties of Misty Hampton, who was the elections director in Coffee County in 2020 and is also facing charges as part of the sweeping criminal racketeering case.

An amended charging document filed Friday and signed by Willis said Hall “aided, abetted, and encouraged” employees of the forensic data firm, SullivanStrickler, in the Coffee County breach.

The document repeatedly alleges Powell “entered into a contract” with SullivanStrickler and paid the firm for its work in Coffee County.

Hall’s plea came two days after Powell filed a motion seeking to dismiss charges against her, claiming prosecutorial misconduct. In the filing, Brian Rafferty, Powell’s attorney, accused prosecutors of failing to disclose evidence that he claimed proves that his client had no involvement in the Coffee County breach.

The 213-page filing included screenshots of text messages and other communications that Rafferty claimed proves that no one charged in relation to the Coffee County breach was communicating with Powell during the breach. “There is no mention of Sidney Powell … because she was not involved,” Rafferty wrote.

The prospect of Hall’s testimony could complicate that argument.

Lawyers for Powell and Hampton did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Earlier Friday, a federal judge denied the requests of four co-defendants to move their cases to federal court.

The defendants had asked for removal under a federal law that allows people charged with crimes while carrying out their official duties to be prosecuted in federal court, even in cases involving state law and state prosecutors. The defendants had hoped that removal to federal court would create a speedier path to dismissal of the case. The jury pool in the Northern District of Georgia may also be slightly more conservative, and therefore favorable to the defendants, than that of Fulton County.

U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones ruled that while Clark was undeniably a federal officer during his tenure at the Justice Department, he was not acting in that capacity when he sought to help Trump overturn the results of his Georgia defeat in 2020.

In addition to the racketeering charge, Clark faces one charge of criminal attempt to commit false statements and writings.

Later in the day, Jones issued similar rulings in the cases of three Georgia Republicans charged in connection with their roles as contingent electors for Trump. Shafer, the former state GOP chair, Shawn Still, now a state senator, and Cathy Latham, a member of the state GOP central committee, convened with 13 others on Dec. 14, 2020, to cast electoral college votes for Trump despite Biden’s apparent win in the state.

Charges against the three stemming from their actions as electors include: impersonating a public officer, forgery, false statements and writings, and attempting to file false documents.

They argued then, and in court before Jones, that they were meeting under the authority of the Constitution and the Electoral Count Act, to preserve Trump’s legal rights as an election contest was pending in state court.

Jones wrote that he was “not persuaded” by arguments that Shafer and the other electors should be viewed as federal officers because they were undertaking actions in service of federal functions.

“Even though electors are engaging in a federal function when they meet and cast their ballots, that is insufficient to make someone a federal officer,” Jones wrote. “To find otherwise would convert all citizens who can lawfully vote into federal officers when they cast their ballot for U.S. House of Representatives.”

In early September, Jones made similar arguments when he ruled against former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

Meadows has appealed his case, and the others have the option of doing the same. Ultimately, they could ask the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in. Trump’s legal team announced Thursday that it would not seek federal removal.

The Georgia case is the fourth criminal indictment against Trump this yearSpecial counsel Jack Smith has brought two federal cases against him, one in Washington alleging election interference, and the other in Miami alleging he mishandled classified documents after he left the White House. Trump is also charged in New York with falsifying business records in connection to hush money paid to 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.

Gardner and Stanley-Becker reported from Washington.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We wanna see all the Trump crumb bums pay for their stupidity.