Sidney Powell, charged in connection with a sweeping criminal case tied to Donald Trump’s attempts to subvert the results of the 2020 election in Georgia, has pleaded guilty under an arrangement with prosecutors ahead of a closely watched trial set to begin in coming days.
Ms Powell – among Trump-linked attorneys who launched a spurious, failed legal campaign to overturn election results – was accused of playing a central role in an effort to seize voting machines in the volatile aftermath of the 2020 presidential election in January 2021.
A trial for Ms Powell and Kenneth Chesebro was set to begin on 20 October.
Ms Powell instead has pleaded guilty to six misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to interfere with elections during a surprise hearing with her attorney and prosecutors in front of Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee in an Atlanta courtroom on 19 October.
She faces a sentence of six years of probation and must cooperate in other cases, according to prosecutors and a sentencing sheet. She also faces a $6,000 fine and $2,700 in restitution to the state of Georgia, and she must write an apology letter to Georgia voters and testify “truthfully against any and all co-defendants in this matter,” according to the judge.
Ms Powell is “expected to provide cooperative testimony for prosecutors in the trials of the remaining defendants,” according to the judge.
She is the second person among the 19 defendants in Georgia’s sprawling election interference case to plead guilty.
Like Ms Powell, Scott Hall was among a group of Trump loyalists charged with breaching voting machines in the state. He agreed to a plea deal on 29 September that includes a sentence of five years of probation, a $5,000 fine and 200 hours of community service.
Mr Hall was initially charged under Georgia’s anti-racketeering statute and faced two counts of conspiracy to commit election fraud, conspiracy to commit computer theft, conspiracy to commit computer trespass, conspiracy to commit computer invasion of privacy and conspiracy to defraud the state.
His plea arrangement before Judge McAfee last month included guilty pleas for five misdemeanor counts of “conspiracy to commit intentional interference with performance of election duties,” the same charges now facing Ms Powell.
In the days leading up to Thursday’s surprise courtroom appearance, attorneys for Ms Powell and Mr Chesebro – both of whom initially pleaded not guilty – had insisted their clients were clear of any wrongdoing and had rejected a lengthy indictment arguing that Ms Powell never had permission to access voting machines in Coffee County.
One day earlier, Judge McAfee rejected filings in which they sought to dismiss the criminal charges against them under First Amendment grounds and the Supremacy Clause.
On Thursday morning, Ms Powell agreed that the state had proof to convict her.
“Are you pleading guilty today because you agree that there is a sufficient factual basis, that there are enough facts that support this plea of guilty?” the judge asked Ms Powell, who was seated next to her attorney in the courtroom.
“I do,” she said.
Ms Powell – whose false claims about voting machines on Fox News were central to Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against the network – rose to prominence among a field of Trump-linked attorneys including Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis as they launched a failed legal effort to challenge election results in state’s that the former president lost.
Those attorneys now are co-defendants in the Georgia racketeering case.
It remains unclear what will happen with the case of Mr Chesebro, an architect of the so-called “alternate” elector plot to replace slates of electors with Trump loyalists to be certified in Congress.