Jenna Ellis reacts after reading a statement October 24 while pleading guilty to a felony count of aiding and abetting false statements and writings inside Fulton Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee’s courtroom. John Bazemore-Pool/Getty Images
This post was updated at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday Oct. 24, 2023.
Jenna Ellis, a former attorney for the Trump campaign in the 2020 presidential election, expressed regret on Tuesday in Fulton County Superior Court after pleading guilty to making false statements about widespread voting fraud at a Georgia legislative hearing held several weeks after the 2020 election.
Ellis was sentenced to five years probation, ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution, and perform 100 hours of community service after pleading guilty to one felony count of aiding and abetting false statements in writing.
On Tuesday, Ellis became the fourth defendant to plead guilty to charges in the election interference case that alleges that former President Donald Trump, several of his personal and campaign attorneys, and other Trump allies were involved in an illegal conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election victory of Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
Fulton prosecutors on Tuesday referenced the Dec. 3, 2020, Georgia Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing in which Ellis was joined by Trump campaign attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Ray Smith where they made false statements claiming that nearly 100,000 fraudulent ballots were counted in Georgia, that 2,506 convicted felons voted illegally, and over 66,000 underage Georgians cast ballots in the 2020 election.
Prosecutors on Tuesday said that the false voting fraud claims were an attempt by the Trump campaign to convince the Georgia General Assembly to ignore the legitimate election certification process and declare Trump the rightful winner based on the votes from a false slate of GOP electors.
Ellis apologized for representing the Trump campaign in the push to persuade state lawmakers in Georgia and several other states with flawed legal arguments to contest the results of the election.
“I relied on others, including lawyers with many more years of experience than me, to provide me with true and reliable information, especially since my role involved speaking to the media and to legislators in various states,” the tearful 38-year-old Colorado attorney said.
“In the frenetic pace of attempting to raise challenges to the election in several states, including Georgia, I failed to do my due diligence,” she said. “I believe in and I value election integrity. If I knew then what I know now, I would have declined to represent Donald Trump in these post election challenges.”
Ellis was sentenced under Georgia’s First Offender Act, which allows her conviction to be sealed from court records if she successfully completes the terms of probation and fully cooperates with prosecutors. Ellis is now required to turn over all evidence related to the case and to truthfully testify as a state’s witness in the trials of the remaining co-defendants.
In March, a Colorado judge censured Ellis for professional misconduct after she admitted to making misleading statements about the 2020 presidential election.
Ellis has joined a number of her other Fulton co-defendants who are raising money for attorney fees incurred in Fulton and other court jurisdictions.
Several new donations after Tuesday’s sentencing hearing listed on the conservative-leaning GiveSendGo website, raised the total of Ellis’ legal expense crowdfunding campaign to north of $216,600.
Last week, two of Ellis’ co-defendants’ attorneys, Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, entered guilty pleas just ahead of their joint trial. Scott Hall, a bail bondsman in Atlanta, was sentenced on Sept. 29 to five years probation after pleading guilty to five misdemeanors for his involvement in the Coffee County voting system breach following the 2020 election.
RICO charges lead to plea deals, former D.A. says
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis was able to prosecute Trump and his 18 co-defendants all at once by trying together with an overarching felony charge of violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law, or RICO, which has been associated most often with organized crime like the mafia and street gangs.
In the Aug. 14 indictment, Fulton prosecutors allege that Trump and his 18 co-defendants violated the RICO law by their involvement in conspiracy to stage election coups in Georgia and several other states that Trump lost in 2020.
Willis is also currently pursuing a RICO case against Atlanta rapper Young Thug and a dozen other defendants over claims that the rapper’s YSL Records company was simultaneously operating as a criminal gang enterprise.
Former Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said that the string of plea agreements is a sign that the case is playing out how prosecutors intended.
He said that prosecutors use the racketeering charge to put pressure on a number of co-conspirators in order to strengthen the state’s case against defendants like Giuliani and Trump, who are considered the leaders of the conspiracy. The most important aspect of the plea deal for the D.A.’s office is having the defendants agree to testify against the other co-defendants at trial, Porter said.
Powell and Cheseboro continued to fight their case over a number of court hearings and motions, but they understood that with their trial starting last week, if found guilty by a jury, they could face jail time, Porter said.
“When you’re looking at your top dog being Trump and maybe Giuliani and you’re looking at sending them to prison, you’ve got to scale it down so that the little fish get a deal that they will take,” he said.
Porter said he’s not surprised to see only probation sentences in the plea deals considering the four defendants’ professional careers provided them with extensive knowledge about how leverage works in the judicial system.
Norman Eisen, a senior fellow at Brookings Institution and CNN legal analyst, said it’s significant to have Chesebro’s guilty plea on felony conspiracy charge for orchestrating the alternate GOP electors scheme.
“When you plead guilty to a felony of conspiracy – to do the false documents (and) be a part of promulgating and propagating the false documents that are at the core of this assault on the 2020 election – that is not fringe or marginal,” Eisen said during an Democracy 21 Education Fund online press briefing on Monday.
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