Former Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis pleads guilty in Georgia case
Trump’s former lawyer pleads guilty in Georgia case
Washington (CNN) — Former Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis pleaded guilty Tuesday in the Georgia election subversion case and will cooperate with Fulton County prosecutors – the third guilty plea in the past week.
At an unscheduled hearing in Atlanta, Ellis pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting false statements, a felony stemming from the election lies that Ellis and other Donald Trump lawyers peddled to Georgia lawmakers in December 2020.
She was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution.
Ellis delivered a tearful statement to the judge Tuesday while pleading guilty, disavowing her participation in Trump’s unprecedented attempts to overturn the 2020 election.
“If I knew then what I knew now, I would have declined to represent Donald Trump in these post-election challenges. I look back on this experience with deep remorse,” Ellis said, her voice breaking at times.
The development comes after back-to-back guilty pleas last week in the sprawling case from former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, who helped devise the fake electors plot.
These three plea deals are a monumental step forward for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who charged the case in August and is preparing for trials against Trump, his former attorney Rudy Giuliani, his chief of staff Mark Meadows and other top figures. (They have all pleaded not guilty.)
Ellis, Chesebro and Powell all agreed to testify on behalf of the prosecution at future trials. By flipping, these onetime Trump insiders are now on track to become major Trump nemeses. They are all lawyers and can shed light on what was happening behind the scenes in 2020.
Prosecutors originally charged 19 people in the sprawling case. So far, four have pleaded guilty.
In a tearful apology in court, Ellis spoke of her personal “failures” and expressed “deep remorse” while disavowing her involvement in Trump’s legal efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
“As an attorney who is also a Christian, I take my responsibilities as a lawyer very seriously and I endeavor to be a person of sound moral and ethical character in all of my dealings,” Ellis said.
But after the 2020 election, “I failed to do my due diligence,” she said.
“I relied on others, including lawyers with many more years of experience than I, to provide me with true and reliable information … what I did not do, but should have done, your honor, was to make sure that the facts the other lawyers alleged to be true were, in fact, true,” Ellis said.
The plea from Ellis implicated Giuliani in a state crime – lying to Georgia legislators by peddling false voter-fraud theories. This comes one week after Chesebro implicated Giuliani in the fake electors scheme that tried to subvert the Electoral College process. Giuliani denies wrongdoing.
According to court filings, Ellis admitted that she “intentionally aided and abetted” Giuliani and another Trump lawyer, Ray Smith, in “in knowingly, willfully, and unlawfully making … false statements to members of the Georgia Senate.”
Their false statements included baseless claims of massive voter fraud – including through mail-in ballots, and with thousands of supposedly illegal votes from felons, minors and “dead people.” Both Smith and Giuliani pleaded not guilty.
None of these allegations were true, according to multiple investigation and recounts by Georgia election officials. Trump lost the state to Joe Biden by about 12,000 votes.
In exchange for Ellis’ cooperation, prosecutors dropped her original two charges, including a violation of Georgia’s racketeering law known as RICO. Trump lawyer Steve Sadow said in a statement that he believes this helps his client and noted that the criminal conduct admitted to by Ellis “doesn’t even mention President Trump.”
“For the fourth time, Fani Willis and her prosecution team have dismissed the RICO charge in return for a plea to probation,” Sadow said. “What that shows is this so-called RICO case is nothing more than a bargaining chip for DA Willis.”
As a result of the plea deal, Ellis, who has an active online presence, is also banned from posting anything on social media about the case while the proceedings are unfolding against any of the defendants, prosecutors said.
In unrelated disciplinary proceedings in Colorado, where Ellis is a practicing attorney, Ellis admitted that many of her post-election public statements were false, including her claim that the race was “stolen” from Trump. She was censured by a judge and agreed to pay $224, ending the misconduct probe.
She hasn’t been in Trump’s orbit in recent months – and she has publicly been supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the 2024 Republican presidential primary.
After Ellis’ indictment, she publicly complained about the lack of financial support from pro-Trump groups. She has raised more than $216,000 through an online crowdfunding website.
This story has been updated with additional developments.