Sidney Powell pleads guilty to efforts to overturn Trump’s loss in Georgia, agrees to cooperate

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ATLANTA (AP) — Attorney Sidney Powell pleaded guilty Thursday to reduced charges stemming from his attempt to overturn Donald Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election in Georgia.

Powell, who was charged along with Trump and 17 others with violating the state’s anti-crime law, entered the plea just a day before her trial began. She pleaded guilty to six misdemeanors and was accused of conspiring to intentionally interfere with election duties.

As part of the agreement, she will serve six years of probation, be fined $6,000 and must write a letter of apology to Georgia and its residents. She also recorded a statement for the prosecution and agreed to testify truthfully against her co-defendants at future trials.

Powell was initially indicted on racketeering and six other counts as part of a sweeping plan to keep the Republican president in power after he lost the 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden. According to prosecutors, she also participated in an unauthorized theft of voting equipment at a rural elections office in Georgia County.

The plea deal makes Powell the most prominent known person to cooperate with prosecutors investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. Their cooperation in the case and their participation in strategy discussions threaten to expose the former president and provide insight into his statements and actions in the critical period after the election.

Above all, the guilty plea is a remarkable turnaround for a lawyer who, perhaps more than anyone else, has vigorously pushed baseless conspiracy theories about a stolen election in the face of ample evidence to the contrary. She also has important knowledge of high-profile events, including a press conference she attended on behalf of Trump and his campaign shortly after the election and a White House meeting she attended in mid-December 2020 where prosecutors discussed options to influence the outcome of the election was discussed.

Powell’s only comments in court came in response to routine questions from prosecutor Daysha Young and the judge.

There was a moment of levity when Young asked, “How old are you, ma’am?”

“Oh God,” Powell said, laughing. “Sixty-eight, despite my surprisingly youthful expression.”

But Powell was serious and succinct when Young asked, “How do you plead to the six counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with the performance of election duties?”

“Guilty,” Powell said, his hands folded in front of him on the defense table.

John Fishwick, a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, called Powell’s plea a “significant victory” for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

“This is someone who was at the origin of these allegations and a lawyer pleading guilty,” he said. “This is very significant.”

Fishwick also said Powell’s plea was helpful to Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith.

Powell is mentioned, although not by name, as one of six unindicted co-conspirators in Smith’s federal case accusing Trump of trying to overturn the election. This indictment notes that Trump had privately admitted to others that Powell’s baseless claims of election fraud were “crazy,” and yet he endorsed and endorsed a lawsuit filed by Powell against the state of Georgia that was also “far-fetched” and “Far-fetched” contained unsubstantiated claims.

Barry Coburn, a Washington-based lawyer for Powell, declined to comment Thursday.

Powell gained notoriety for threatening to “release the Kraken” in a November 2020 interview with Fox Business, citing a mythical sea monster while discussing a lawsuit she planned to file to challenge the presidential election results . Similar lawsuits she filed in several states were promptly dismissed.

She was about to go to trial with attorney Kenneth Chesebro after both called for a quick trial. Jury selection was scheduled to begin Friday to allow Chesebro to go to trial alone, although prosecutors had previously said they also wanted to explore the possibility of offering him a plea deal.

Jury selection was scheduled to begin Friday. Chesebro’s attorneys did not immediately respond to messages Thursday seeking comment on whether he would also agree to a plea deal.

A lesser-known defendant in the case, bail bondsman Scott Graham Hall, pleaded guilty last month to five misdemeanors. He was sentenced to five years probation and agreed to testify in the further proceedings.

Steve Sadow, Trump’s lead attorney in the Georgia case, expressed confidence that Powell’s plea would not harm his own client’s case.

“Assuming truthful testimony in the Fulton County case, it will be beneficial to my overall defense strategy,” he said.

Prosecutors allege Powell conspired with Hall and others to access voting equipment without authorization and hired the computer forensics firm SullivanStrickler to send a team to Coffee County in southern Georgia to copy software and data from voting machines and computers there. The indictment says an unnamed person sent an email to a top executive at SullivanStrickler, instructing him to send all data copied from Dominion Voting Systems machines in Coffee County to an unidentified attorney connected to Powell and the Trump campaign.

No trial dates have been set for the 16 remaining defendants, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who was a Trump lawyer, and Mark Meadows, Trump’s White House chief of staff.

Willis has been criticized for her sweeping prosecution and her use of the state’s anti-crime law to prosecute so many defendants. Some people had speculated that if her case didn’t go well, it could undermine Smith’s case, Fishwick said.

“This certainly shows that it is not being undermined, at least at this stage. In fact, it strengthens his argument,” Fishwick said.

Kate Brumback reports for The Associated Press.

Associated Press writers Eric Tucker in Washington and Sudhin Thanawala in Atlanta contributed to this report.