Far-right attorney Sidney Powell pleaded guilty to six misdemeanor charges Thursday for her efforts to overturn the 2020 election, taking a plea deal from prosecutors in Fulton County, Georgia, which legal experts speculate could have a significant impact on her co-defendants—including former President Donald Trump.
Powell pleaded guilty to six counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with performance of election duties, agreeing to six years of probation, a $6,000 fine and $2,700 in restitution, as well as to “truthfully testify” at her co-defendants’ trials.
The charges Powell pleaded guilty to were based on her role in a breach of election equipment in Coffee County, Georgia, in which her PAC, Defending the Republic, paid forensics firm SullivanStrikler to travel to the county’s election office, where they unlawfully copied election data that was later distributed.
In addition to that effort, Powell helped the Trump campaign’s legal team in the days after the election—until the campaign publicly parted ways with her—and allegedly attended a December 2020 White House meeting with Trump, in which she urged him to seize voting machines and appoint her as special counsel to investigate election fraud.
Given that Powell will now testify about her post-election activities, multiple legal experts— including CNN legal analyst Elie Honig, former U.S. attorney Joyce Vance and former U.S. acting solicitor general Neil Katyal—noted Thursday her guilty plea could be “devastating” for the former president.
Powell’s light punishment as part of the plea deal suggests “prosecutors see high value in her testimony,” Vance noted, meaning “Trump should be nervous.”
Powell—now the second defendant to plead guilty, after bail bondsman Scott Hall—could also inspire other defendants in the case to take plea deals that could bolster prosecutors’ case against Trump, the Atlantic notes.
Trump attorney Steve Sadow told the Messenger he sees Powell’s plea deal as a positive development. “Assuming truthful testimony in the Fulton County case, it will be favorable to my overall defense strategy,” Sadow said. Trump and his counsel have heavily opposed the charges against him in Georgia, which he has pleaded not guilty to, with the former president decrying the indictment as a politically motivated “witch hunt.”
What To Watch For
The only trial that’s been scheduled so far in the 19-defendant case is for Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro, who was initially supposed to be tried alongside Powell before her guilty plea. Jury selection in that trial will begin Friday, and the trial is expected to continue for three to five months. Legal experts suggested Thursday it would behoove Chesebro to follow Powell by taking a plea deal, and while ABC News reports he has already rejected one, it remains to be seen whether Powell’s plea could affect his thinking. “Things can change. He’s facing two co-defendants now who may testify against him and perhaps a few more even,” Georgia State University law professor Anthony Michael Kreis said on X on Thursday.
41. That’s the total number of counts brought against the 19 defendants, including 13 charges against Trump specifically. Fulton County DA Fani Willis alleges the defendants are part of a widespread criminal conspiracy, bringing racketeering charges for the allegedly unlawful plot to “unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favor of Trump.”
Powell was initially charged with seven felony counts before having them downgraded as part of her plea deal. The attorney was one of the most prominent people who pushed baseless claims of election fraud after the 2020 election and has faced a series of consequences since including being sanctioned in a lawsuit in Michigan and facing multiple ongoing defamation lawsuits from voting machine companies. Her plea deal came after she had initially pleaded not guilty to the charges and sought to have them dismissed, claiming in a legal filing she had no involvement with the actions in Coffee County before reversing her position and pleading guilty. Willis’ office indicted Powell, Trump and the other 17 defendants in August following a yearslong investigation into their post-election efforts. In addition to Trump, other high-profile defendants who have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them and still await trial include attorney Rudy Giuliani and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.