Guilty Plea in Georgia Could Mean Trouble for Trump

An attorney for John Eastman, though, tells the Sun, ‘Not now, not ever,’ when asked if his client would take a deal.

AP Photo/Alex Brandon
President Trump walks to speak with reporters before departure from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, August 24, 2023, at Atlanta. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

The guilty plea from a Georgia bail bondsman, Scott Hall, could herald a torrent of such pleas that could, in turn, darken President Trump’s legal future. 

Mr. Hall, one of District Attorney Fani Willis’s 19 co-defendants in her sprawling racketeering case out of Fulton County, was facing six felony charges with respect to efforts to access Coffee County’s voting machines. Now, he’ll be dinged with five misdemeanors, serve five months of probation, and be required to issue a public letter of apology. 

The Georgia district attorney’s office asked Mr. Hall, “Do you understand that conditions of your probation in this sentence is that you testify truthfully at any further court proceedings to include trials of any co-defendants that is listed on the original indictment in which you were charged?” He answered, “Yes, ma’am.” 

The Sun spoke to a lawyer for another Georgia defendant, the attorney John Eastman, Harvey Silverglate. Mr. Silverglate tells the Sun that “you can take me at my word” that his client would not be taking a plea deal, “Not now, not ever.” The longtime litigator adds that he “got into the case to win this ridiculous and politically motivated prosecution. Period.” 

Mr. Eastman on Monday suffered a setback at the Supreme Court, where the justices declined to overturn a lower court ruling that allowed a selection of his emails to be turned over to the January 6 committee because it was, the judge ruled, “more likely than not” that Messrs. Trump and Eastman committed crimes. If they did, attorney-client privilege would not protect the correspondence. 

Mr. Hall’s attorney, Jeffrey Weiner, said in respect to the plea deal that short-circuited his client’s legal saga, “This way, it’s over. He can sleep well and get on with his life” without the stress of “living under a serious felony indictment.” Mr. Weiner did not respond to the Sun’s request for further comment. 

While it is unlikely that Mr. Trump sees Mr. Hall’s testimony as an immediate threat — the Coffee County charges largely center on two attorneys, Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell — the logic behind his plea could inform a more widespread decision to cooperate with prosecutors. None of the defendants have prior criminal records, meaning that as first-time offenders, their plea penalties are unlikely to be steep.   

Mr. Hall could soon have more consequential company. At a hearing on Friday, an attorney with Ms. Willis’s office, Nathan Wade, told the presiding judge, Scott McAfee, that the state is prepared to offer deals to Ms. Powell and Mr. Chesebro in advance of their trial, set to begin on October 23.

While the scale of Ms. Willis’s case — those 19 defendants faced a total of 41 charges — has already spawned strains with respect to her prosecutorial management, it also provides prosecutors with a long roster of defendants from which to harvest guilty pleas and, most importantly, testimony. That list of defendants could soon find new life as a record of cooperating witnesses.

Thus far, the efforts of five defendants — including Mr. Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows — to move their cases to federal court have failed. So, too, have motions to dismiss charges or to pause litigation pending appeal. These setbacks could induce one or more defendants to throw in the towel and cop a plea.

Mr. Trump has to worry about cooperating witnesses in at least two of the other criminal prosecutions he faces. In the Mar-a-Lago case, a former information technology employee, Yuscil Taveras, has agreed to work with prosecutors after he flirted with perjury in his grand jury testimony. Mr. Trump’s valet and co-defendant, Waltine Nauta, will likely also feel pressure to cooperate.  

District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s case against the former president, in New York state court, is founded on alleged hush money payments to a pornography star, Stormy Daniels, but will likely rely on the testimony of Mr. Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen. He’s already pleaded guilty to eight felony charges in connection to the same underlying facts for which Mr. Trump is now charged.

The New York Sun

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