Sidney Powell reaches plea deal in Trump case

Noted conspiracy theorist pleads guilty and agrees to testify for prosecution

Attorney Sidney Powell, who pushed false conspiracy theories alleging widespread fraud in the 2020 election, reached a plea deal with Fulton County prosecutors on Thursday, a day before jury selection was set to begin for her criminal trial.

During an appearance in Fulton County Superior Court, Powell pleaded guilty to six misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with performance of election duties. She had originally been charged with felony racketeering and six other felony conspiracy counts for her alleged role in breaching the voting system in rural Coffee County after the 2020 election.

As part of the deal, Powell agreed to testify truthfully in the case and on Wednesday recorded a video statement with prosecutors. She will receive six years probation and pay a $6,000 fine. She also agreed to pay $2,700 in restitution to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office to replace election equipment in Coffee County. And Powell wrote a letter of apology to the citizens of Georgia.

It’s a major development in a case that involves criminal charges against former President Donald Trump and 17 other defendants. They are accused of participating in an illegal scheme to overturn Biden’s victory in Georgia in the 2020 presidential election.

Powell’s plea deal is a significant win for Fulton prosecutors. Powell can speak to closed-door Oval Office meetings she had with Trump, Rudy Giuliani and several other co-defendants.

She also participated in a news conference of Trump’s “elite strike force” of attorneys, where she laid out false claims that the Dominion Voting Systems software used in Georgia had “flipped” votes from Trump to Biden.

Powell also filed a series of unsuccessful lawsuits challenging the election results in Georgia and other states. And in December 2020, she urged Trump to seize election machines and to appoint her as a special counsel to investigate fraud.

Data Breach

But it was Powell’s alleged involvement in a plan to obtain voting system data from Coffee County that led to criminal charges.

On Jan. 7, 2021, computer analysts from an Atlanta tech firm visited the Coffee County election office and “stole data, including ballot images, voting equipment software and personal voter information,” according to the Fulton indictment.

Court records show the tech firm kept Powell informed of its progress and billed her for the Coffee County operation. Three others also have been charged in the incident – apparently an effort to prove Trump’s false election fraud claims.

Powell had denied participating in the data breach and said it wasn’t illegal anyway – she said Coffee County officials authorized the voting system review.

Powell is the second defendant in the case to cut a plea deal with prosecutors. She joins bail bondsman Scott Hall, who was also involved in the Coffee County breach and agreed to cooperate last month.

What happens to Chesebro?

Powell’s plea deal ups the pressure on co-defendant Kenneth Chesebro, who was set to go to trial alongside her on Friday. Chesebro was charged for his role in Trump’s plan to use Republican presidential electors to help overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.

On Thursday, Scott Grubman, one of Chesebro’s attorneys, said he had no comment at this time.

If Chesebro also takes a plea, prosecutors would have the major benefit of not needing to publicly share the evidence they’ve collected at this relatively early point in the legal process. That helps them as they zero in on some of their biggest targets in the case, including Trump and Giuliani, who each face 13 charges.

Otherwise, jury selection will begin Friday in Fulton County court with Chesebro as the lone defendant.

Texas law license

For Powell, who has been an ardent and outspoken supporter of conspiracy theories surrounding the 2020 election and beyond, the guilty pleas mark a major turnabout.

Under the terms of the deal, if she completes probation without incident, she will have a clean criminal record.

It’s also possible she can keep her law license. During Thursday’s proceedings, prosecutors specifically said Powell’s crimes were not of moral turpitude.

According to the rules of the State Bar of Texas, where Powell practices, a licensed attorney cannot “commit a serious crime or commit any other criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyers honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.”

However, “serious crime” is defined as “any felony involving moral turpitude; any misdemeanor involving theft, embezzlement, or fraudulent or reckless misappropriation of money or other property; or any attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation of another to commit any of the foregoing crimes.”

There are other ways that an attorney could come under disciplinary scrutiny in Texas, including conduct that obstructs justice or behavior “involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.”

Claire Reynolds, spokeswoman for the State Bar of Texas’ Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel, said the dismissal of an earlier disciplinary case against Powell has been appealed and the parties are awaiting a decision. Powell’s guilty plea in Georgia is a separate matter, she said.

The Texas case involves alleged misrepresentations in lawsuits she filed after the 2020 presidential election, Reynold said. ”At this time, I do not know if her guilty plea in Georgia will result in a separate disciplinary matter here in Texas,” she said. Pending attorney discipline cases in Texas are confidential.