On Friday, Donald Trump-aligned attorney Kenneth Chesebro pleaded guilty in the Fulton County, Georgia, indictment brought by District Attorney Fani Wilis. This follows a Thursday plea by attorney Sidney Powell. Both Chesebro and Powell have provided recorded statements to prosecutors and agreed to act as witnesses in the cases against their 17 codefendants.
Where Powell’s involvement in Georgia was largely related to efforts to tamper with voting machines in Coffee County, Chesebro was involved in all aspects of the false-electors scheme. Between the two witnesses, they can provide testimony that speaks to a large portion of the efforts headed up by Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani to overturn the 2020 election.
The guilty pleas by Chesebro and Powell represent a huge threat to Trump’s chances of once again becoming the Republican nominee, much less of moving back into the White House.
In exchange for Chesebro’s testimony, Willis is dropping six of the seven charges against him. That includes letting him out of the racketeering charge, commonly known as RICO, that would have made jail time mandatory for any other violation. The remaining charge against Chesebro is one count of conspiracy to commit filing false documents, which is count 15 on the indictment. For this charge, prosecutors are recommending that Chesebro be sentenced to five years probation, pay a $5,000 fine, and write a letter of apology to Georgia voters.
As with Powell, it’s easy to see this penalty as a slap on the wrist … because it’s a slap on the wrist. That’s even more true in Chesebro’s case. His actions in Georgia were blatant and obvious. Few of the 19 codefendants’ charges would have been easier to prove than Chesebro’s. His efforts to file false documents, impersonate a state official, and seat false electors isn’t a matter of conjecture: Chesebro put it all down on paper. The seven original charges he was facing could have easily earned him more than a decade in jail.
Chesebro features prominently in 19 separate acts described as part of the greater RICO conspiracy, and still, Chesebro evaded being charged with being part of that greater conspiracy. In the Georgia case, Chesebro was much more deeply involved than Powell, and his skating away with this level of punishment is a jaw-dropping deal.
The question is: Why?
With Powell, Willis got a witness who can testify both to the Coffee County effort and to every aspect of the Trump-Giuliani scheme that involved false claims about voting machines. That has value, and it definitely means that the people involved in those aspects of the case should be getting their outside-the-bars affairs in order and gathering up some light reading material.
There’s no doubt that Powell was also involved in the largest election-overthrow scheme. However, there is an issue. That issue is that she’s Sidney Powell. Finding footage that shows her ranting about dead dictators while rattling off a dozen nonsensical claims will not be difficult. It’s not hard to imagine a Trump attorney saying, “I submit, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that the government’s witness is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. No further questions at this time.”
In other words, Powell’s demonstrated history of instability and unreliability may be an issue if it comes down to a he-said/Sidney-said.
Fortunately for Willis, she already has a backup when it comes to the Coffee County charges. Bail bondsman Scott Hall pleaded guilty in September, and his involvement in the case strongly overlaps the charges against Powell. So prosecutors will have a more grounded source.
Chesebro doesn’t bring that baggage. What he does bring is a deep involvement with the false-elector scheme in Georgia and elsewhere. Chesebro’s name isn’t just in the indictment for attempting to forge a false election certificate: It’s in the indictment alongside Trump, Giuliani, and a half dozen others involved in the same act. Chesebro was intimately involved in this plan, working elbow to elbow with the folks at the top of the RICO pyramid.
He also worked closely with attorney Bob Cheeley and political staffer Michael Roman. Seeing those two in jail may not be all that important for most people. However, their presence in Georgia may make them more important to Willis.
Chesebro got a better deal because he’s a more valuable witness.
At this point, he has already given his recorded proffer to the prosecutors. He has also reportedly agreed to turn over additional emails and more information related to the case. Willis must have thought it was worth it.
For anyone else hoping get a deal as good as that provided to Chesebro, the bar is going to be very, very high.