Georgia Trump indictment calls for justice for election workers

The sweeping Georgia indictment, which covers every aspect of former President Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election in the state, includes references to one woman: poll worker Ruby Freeman.

The Fulton County poll worker was helping count ballots in the state when she was singled out by Trump and his then-lawyer Rudy Giuliani and accused of mishandling ballots, sparking a wave of threats against Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss.

Freeman's name appears about 40 times in the indictment, a detail that, according to Gwen Keyes Fleming, a former district attorney (DA) in Georgia, indicates that in addition to voters, there are “actually identifiable victims that the DA's office is working to protect.” is obliged”. in the state whose will Trump tried to deny.

“This indictment is an attempt to also acknowledge the alleged individual victimization of a poll worker who was simply attempting to serve her county,” Keyes Fleming said.

Freeman spoke to investigators from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack and recounted how she and her daughter, another former poll worker, were subjected to a campaign of harassment following the allegations.

“Do you know what it feels like to have the President of the United States target you?” Freeman asked in her testimony, which aired during one of the committee's public hearings. “The President of the United States should represent every American, not target one.”

According to a Georgia State Election Board report, Giuliani, a defendant in the case and Trump's longtime ally, claimed to have video evidence that showed the mother-daughter pair scanning ballots hidden in suitcases under tables at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta .

The alleged USB stick, which he accused them of having “as if it were vials of heroin or cocaine,” was actually just a ginger mint.

Trump then called Freeman a “professional election fraudster.”

Caren Myers Morrison, a law professor at Georgia State University and a former federal prosecutor, said the prosecution takes the harassment of poll workers seriously.

“That’s where you see it [DA Fani Willis] “Protect the people of Fulton County, you know — this is one of their constituents,” she said.

Trump and Giuliani's comments sparked a wave of threats against the women and spurred the involvement of Trump allies who, according to the indictment, “pretended to offer her assistance” to influence her statements about the events at the arena.

In December 2020, Illinois pastor Stephen Lee traveled to Freeman's home and spoke to her neighbor, intending to mislead Freeman and “influence her testimony in an official proceeding,” prosecutors allege in the indictment.

They say Lee recruited Black Voices for Trump leader Harrison Floyd to persuade Freeman, who was afraid to speak to Lee “because he was a white man.” Both Freeman and Moss are black.

A month later, Floyd recruited Trevian Kutti — a former publicist for rapper and Trump ally Ye, formerly known as Kanye West — to join their efforts, the indictment says. Kutti met with Freeman at the behest of an unidentified “high-level person” and demanded that Freeman confess to Trump's election fraud allegations or go to prison within 48 hours, Reuters reported.

Eric Segall, another law professor at Georgia State University, said the role the campaign workers played in the prosecution's larger narrative creates a racial component to the case that is less present in the ex-president's other criminal cases.

The women were an obstacle to efforts to change election results in a state where civil rights organizations drove the movement. In a future trial — which would likely be televised because of Georgia court rules — race would inevitably play a role, he said.

“We have these white, powerful northern lawyers intimidating these black women,” Segall said. “It has symbolism and images can be really powerful.”

The false claims of voter fraud that quickly spread within Trump's circle and the right-wing spectrum left Freeman and Moss facing harassment and threats that they said changed their lives.

“I don’t do anything anymore. I don't want to go anywhere. I think about everything I do. It has had a big impact on my life. In every sense. “It’s all because of lies,” Moss testified during a Jan. 6 committee hearing.

Keyes Fleming said such details could personalize the case and be compelling to jurors.

“Many jurors may see themselves as ordinary citizens who are simply trying to support the right to vote or volunteer in some way, shape or form for the public good. And then … they find themselves in the crosshairs of hateful lies and attempts to undermine their credibility,” she said.

“In my experience, such statements can be persuasive.”

Freeman and Moss have themselves sued Giuliani for defamation over his election fraud allegations, which a series of investigations led by three law enforcement agencies found to be “false and baseless.”

Giuliani wrote in court filings that he would “not deny” that his statements were “false” and had “defamatory meaning,” but insisted they were “constitutionally protected.”

But Keyes Fleming said there is another important difference between treating false statements about Freeman in a criminal case and a civil defamation lawsuit in which the two women could receive financial damages.

“It’s not about refunds…. Rather, it is about the punishment of a crime that is consistent with the degree of responsibility for a particular act,” she said.

Although Trump's attempts to undermine the election results in Georgia ultimately failed, the indictment makes clear that the alleged actions of him and his allies “were not a victimless crime at all,” Segall said.

“The involvement of Ruby Freeman and her daughter shows a very human cost for what these people did,” he said.

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.