ATLANTA (AP) — A bail bondsman charged alongside former President Donald Trump and 17 others in the Georgia election interference case pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges on Friday, becoming the first defendant to accept a plea deal with prosecutors.
As part of the deal, Scott Graham Hall will receive five years of probation and agreed to testify in further proceedings. He was also ordered to write a letter of apology to the citizens of Georgia and is forbidden from participating in polling activities.
Hall, 59, pleaded guilty to five counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with performance of election duties, all misdemeanors. Prosecutors had accused him of participating in a breach of election equipment in rural Coffee County and initially charged him with racketeering and six conspiracy charges.
He is one of the lower-level players in the indictment filed last month alleging a wide-ranging scheme to overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential victory and keep the Republican Trump in power. But the plea deal nonetheless is a major development in the case and marks a win for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis as she pursues a historic racketeering case against a former president.
Hall’s attorney Jeff Weiner, who was in court with him Friday, did not immediately respond to messages on why his client agreed to a plea deal.
Trump attorney Steve Sadow referred a request for comment on Hall’s plea deal to Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung, who did not immediately respond.
Hall was described in the 98-page indictment as an associate of longtime Trump adviser David Bossie.
The security breach in the county about 200 miles southeast of Atlanta is among the first known attempts by Trump allies to access voting systems as they sought evidence to back up their unsubstantiated claims that such equipment had been used to manipulate the presidential vote. It was followed a short time later by breaches in three Michigan counties involving some of the same people and again in a western Colorado county that Trump won handily.
Authorities allege the breach began on Jan. 7, 2021, a day after the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol, and continued over the span of a few weeks.
Authorities say Hall and co-defendants conspired to allow others to “unlawfully access secure voting equipment and voter data.” This included ballot images, voting equipment software and personal vote information that was later made available to people in other states, according to the indictment.
Also on Friday, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones rejected requests by four of Hall’s co-defendants — former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and three fake electors — to move the charges against them from state court to federal court. He had previously rejected a similar request from Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
The practical effects of moving to federal court would have been a jury pool that includes a broader area and is potentially more conservative than Fulton County alone and a trial that would not be photographed or televised, as cameras are not allowed inside federal courtrooms. But it would not have opened the door for Trump, if he’s reelected in 2024, or another president to issue pardons because any conviction would still happen under state law.
The indictment says Clark wrote a letter after the election that said the Justice Department had “identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple States, including the State of Georgia” and asked top department officials to sign it and send it to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and state legislative leaders. Clark knew at the time that that statement was false, the indictment alleges.
David Shafer, Shawn Still and Cathy Latham were among 16 Republicans who signed a certificate that falsely claimed that Trump won Georgia and that they were the state’s “duly elected and qualified” electors.
Prosecutors allege they “falsely impersonated” electors. The related charges against them include impersonating a public officer, forgery, false statements and writings, and attempting to file false documents.
Associated Press writers Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta and Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston contributed to this report.