ATLANTA (AP) — Attorney Kenneth Chesebro pleaded guilty to a felony Friday just as jury selection began in his trial in which he was accused of being involved in efforts to overturn Donald Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election in Georgia close.
Chesebro, who was charged along with Trump and 17 others with violating the state’s anti-crime law, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to file false documents in a last-minute deal. His plea came a day after fellow attorney Sidney Powell, who was scheduled to stand alongside him in court, entered her own guilty plea to six misdemeanors.
In Chesebro’s case, he was sentenced to five years’ probation and 100 hours of community service and was ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution, write a letter of apology to Georgia residents, and testify truthfully at future trials.
The two guilty pleas — along with a third for a bail bondsman last month — are major victories for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who received the indictment in August. They allow her to avoid a lengthy trial of just two defendants – which would have given the remaining people insight into her trial strategy – and reduce an unwieldy number of defendants.
Chesebro, who lives in Puerto Rico, was initially charged with criminal racketeering and six other counts as part of a wide-ranging plan to keep the Republican president in power after he lost the 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden. The indictment accuses Chesebro of coordinating and implementing a scheme to have 16 Georgia Republicans sign a certificate falsely declaring that Trump had won the state and making themselves among the “duly elected and qualified.” state voters explained.
For prosecutors, the agreement ensures that Chesebro will publicly accept responsibility for his conduct in the case and eliminates the uncertainty of a trial before a jury of his peers. It also forces him to testify about communications he had with Trump campaign lawyers and close associates, including co-defendant Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and Trump lawyer.
Jury selection for Powell and Chesebro’s trial was scheduled to begin Friday after both called for a speedy trial. After Powell pleaded guilty, Chesebro was expected to continue the trial alone.
As part of Powell’s deal, she will serve six years of probation, be fined $6,000 and must write a letter of apology to Georgia and its residents. She also recorded a statement for the prosecution and agreed to testify truthfully against her co-defendants at future trials.
A lesser-known defendant in the case, bail bondsman Scott Graham Hall, pleaded guilty last month to five misdemeanors. He was sentenced to five years probation and agreed to testify in the further proceedings.
All other defendants, including Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, have pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors allege Chesebro unlawfully conspired with Trump and lawyers associated with his campaign to get the group of Georgia Republicans to sign the false voter certification and submit it to various federal agencies. He also communicated with Trump campaign lawyers and Republican leaders in other swing states won by Biden to get those states to also submit false voter rolls, prosecutors alleged.
That included writing memos advocating that Republicans in those states meet and vote for Trump and providing detailed instructions for conducting the process. In an email to Giuliani, he outlined strategies to disrupt and delay the January 6, 2021, joint session of Congress in which the electoral votes were to be certified. He wrote that these strategies were “preferable to allowing the Electoral Count Act to function according to its terms.”