In Trump Georgia case, Fannie Willis builds momentum with plea deals

Former President Donald J. Fulton County District Attorney Fannie D. Willis had no shortage of skeptics when he brought an ambitious fraud case. It’s very detailed, and very complicated, with multiple defendants and multiple, intersecting plot lines for jurors to follow.

But the power of Georgia’s fraud statute in Ms. Willis’s hands has become apparent over the past six days. In November 2020, pro-Trump attorney Sidney K. promised to “unleash the Kraken” by exposing election fraud. His office started with a conviction vote last Thursday from Powell, but never did.

Then, in quick succession, came two more criminal charges — and promises to cooperate with the prosecution and testify — from other Trump-affiliated lawyers, Kenneth Chesbro and Jenna Ellis. Mrs. Powell pleaded guilty only to misdemeanor charges, Mr. Chesbro and Mrs. The Ellises both accepted a guilty plea as part of their plea deals.

A fourth defendant, Scott Hall, a Georgia bail bondsman, pleaded guilty last month to five misdemeanor charges.

Mr. With Trump and 14 people associated with him still facing trial in the case, the question now is who else will flip and how soon. But the successes so far by Ms. Willis and her team demonstrate the extraordinary legal risk the Georgia case presents to the former president.

Also, Ms. Willis’ methods use her state’s fraud statute to pressure small-fry defendants to roll over, take plea deals, and pressure defendants at the top of the pyramids of power.

This strategy is by no means unique to Ms. Willis. KL, a law professor at Emory University in Atlanta. “That’s how it works,” Levin said, referring to large-scale fraud and conspiracy cases.

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But Ms. Willis, 52, is particularly well-versed in this aspect of the lawyer’s art. He used the same strategy a decade ago, serving as the lead attorney in a high-profile fraud case in which Atlanta public school educators were accused of cheating to improve their students’ standardized test scores.

In that case, 35 people were charged, but more than 20 of them took plea deals.

Many of the educators who went on trial were convicted, although the most prominent defendant—Beverly Hall, Atlanta’s superintendent of schools—died of breast cancer before her case was settled.

Ms. Willis is using a similar tactic in another high-profile fraud case involving Jeffrey Williams, a rapper posing as a young thug, and 27 other gang members. In that case, too, many lower-level defendants have entered plea deals to avoid prison, a lengthy and expensive trial, or both, although it remains to be seen whether Ms. Willis will win any convictions at trial.

Joseph R. in Georgia in 2020. Mr. Biden’s narrow loss to Jr. The election case illustrates many of the ways prosecutors say Trump and his co-defendants tried to circumvent it. These contracts are Mr. The bad news for Trump is that it gives him access to prosecution witnesses who conspired and implemented key aspects of his legal and public relations strategies as he tried to cling to power.

These agreements, after the election Mr. Rudolph W. was the most prominent lawyer who worked on Trump’s behalf. It also harms the cases of other major defendants, including Giuliani. During that time, he often appeared with Ms. Ellis and Ms. Powell by his side. (Notably, Mr. Giuliani, who made his name as a federal prosecutor by successfully using fraud statutes, derided the case as a “ridiculous application of the statute of frauds.”)

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Another attorney-defendant, John Eastman, accused Mr. Trump of a scheme to field fake Trump voters in swing states. Worked with Chesbro.

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump’s lead attorney, Steven H. Sato tried to put the best face on the latest plea deal.

“For the fourth time, Fannie Willis and her legal team have dismissed the RICO charge in response to a motion for probation,” he said in a statement. “The so-called Rico case is nothing more than a bargaining chip for DA Willis.”

A leading 2024 presidential candidate and one of the most polarizing figures in American politics, Mr. Persuading a 12-member jury to convict Trump is a different challenge than getting plea deals.

Mr. Eastman’s attorney Harvey Silverglade said, “Prosecutors would be hard-pressed to get a dozen juries to convict anybody, because in any jurisdiction, even Washington DC, you can have at least one.”

That prediction Mr. Only applies to Trump, predicted a draft report from a special grand jury that heard testimony in the case last year.

Among the panel’s many votes on whether to recommend charges in the case — particularly Mr. As for Trump — one judge voted no. Ms. Willis would need a unanimous jury verdict to be convicted in court. (Although 21 jurors usually vote in special jury meetings, there is no defense to arguing the other side.)

Ms. Willis’s charging strategy — casting a wide net and Mr. Not only on Trump, but on his associates, from obscure figures to political celebrities — and special prosecutor Jack Smith, in stark contrast. For efforts to retain power after 2020 elections, Mr. Federal charges have been filed against Trump.

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The Georgia case will be more difficult. But the plea deals that followed in recent days underscored the rationale behind charging so many, Ms. Levin said, “because it helps light a fire under their decision about whether to cooperate.”

He added: “I think a lot of thought clearly went into what it would take to get these people who were part of the entourage — you know, part of the Trump loyalist group of associates. To co-opt them?”

Although Ms. Willis was charged with 19 people, the small number of major defendants were less likely to receive attractive plea bargains. Among them Mr. Trump and Mr. Mr. Giuliani faces 13 charges each, as do Mr. Trump’s former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and former Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer, among others.

Mr. Eastman and Jeffrey Clarke, a senior justice official, are also seen as high-profile defendants.

For others, it’s unclear what types of contracts might work.

David Shestokas, the attorney for Stephen Lee, the Illinois priest accused of helping intimidate a Fulton County election worker and pressuring him to falsely confess to ballot fraud, said Tuesday that his client will consider any deal offered to him. But Mr. Lee “is determined to do no wrong,” he added.

Mrs. Powell’s deal was a blow to his reputation and “a terrible, terrible consequence,” Mr. Shestokas said.

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