A former attorney for Donald Trump who was at the center of his effort to subvert the 2020 election has reached a plea deal and will cooperate with Georgia prosecutors in the racketeering case against Trump and many of his allies.
Sidney Powell, who advised Trump during the final frantic weeks of his bid to remain in power despite losing the election, pleaded guilty Thursday to six misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with performance of election duties.
Powell’s guilty plea, which she entered in a court hearing in Atlanta, makes her the first member of Trump’s close advisers to admit to crimes related to the 2020 election. She had been slated to go on trial Monday in Fulton County, Ga., on charges that she joined Trump in the alleged racketeering conspiracy and helped engineer the breach of election equipment in a Georgia county.
Powell was sentenced to six years probation and will be left without a criminal record if she complies with all aspects of the agreement, Judge Scott McAfee indicated. She also must write an apology letter to Georgia citizens.
McAfee told Powell the plea deal requires her to take the witness stand against co-defendants if requested.
“You’re to testify truthfully against any and all co-defendants in this matter at any upcoming proceedings,” the judge told Powell.
Powell provided a recorded statement to prosecutors Wednesday night and agreed to turn over documents to the district attorney’s office, a prosecutor said in court.
Powell became a key figure in Trump’s legal orbit in the weeks following the 2020 election, stoking conspiracy theories about foreign governments manipulating voting machines. Trump’s campaign pushed her away in November 2020 amid clashes with Rudy Giuliani, another leader of Trump’s post-election legal efforts, after the two of them appeared at a bizarre press conference in which Powell promoted her discredited notions.
Powell, however, would continue advising an increasingly desperate Trump. She appeared at a Dec. 18, 2020, Oval Office meeting alongside her former client, Trump’s ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn, to push Trump to use the military to seize voting machines. Trump came close to appointing her special counsel to empower her to lead that effort before rejecting it amid pushback from White House advisers.
Trump, at times, privately described Powell as “crazy,” according to testimony obtained by the Jan. 6 select committee.
Federal prosecutors pressing a similar election-subversion case in Washington against Trump have also identified Powell — without naming her — as an alleged co-conspirator in Trump’s effort to subvert the 2020 election.
The charges Powell pleaded guilty to on Thursday stem from her effort to access voting machines in Coffee County, Ga. after the 2020 election. Powell and others involved in that effort claimed they were investigating allegations of voter fraud.
Powell’s plea came as a surprise because she and her defense attorney had vigorously insisted in recent days that she had done nothing wrong and that she had explicit permission from local officials to access the machines.
But at the hearing Thursday, she said the state had the proof needed 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?” McAfee asked
“I do,” Powell said.
In addition to serving probation and writing the apology letter, Powell agreed to pay a $6,000 fine and restitution of $2,700.
The Texas attorney becomes the second of Trump’s 18 co-defendants in the racketeering case to plead guilty following Scott Hall, a bail bondsman who reached a plea deal last month on similar charges.
It’s unclear what the sudden plea deal means for Kenneth Chesebro, another 2020 Trump attorney who is set to go on trial alongside Powell next week.