Scott Hall, the former Fulton County Republican poll watcher and bail bondsman, has become the first of Donald Trump’s 18 co-defendants to take a plea agreement with Fulton County prosecutors in their sprawling racketeering case.
Hall was initially charged with seven felonies for his connection to a breach of voting systems in Coffee County. In a Friday court appearance before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, he pleaded guilty to five misdemeanor counts of “conspiracy to commit intentional interference with performance of election duties.”
“Ultimately I do agree and find that there is a sufficient factual basis for the charges, and I find this guilty plea to be knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently entered,” McAfee said. The surprise proceedings were streamed live on McAfee’s YouTube channel.
The plea agreement puts Hall on probation for five years in exchange for a guilty plea on the five misdemeanors. He will also pay a $5,000 fine, issue a letter of apology to Georgia voters, serve 200 hours of community service, and agree to avoid activities related to polling or administering elections.
Perhaps most crucially for his 19 co-defendants, he also agreed to testify truthfully in all other proceedings related to the case.
The plea deal is “a good sign for the prosecution,” according to former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani.
“[Fulton County DA Fani] Willis doesn’t want to try 19 defendants,” Rahmani told The Daily Beast. “She wants 18 guilty pleas and one trial against Donald Trump.”
Hall’s deal marked the culmination of his own “prisoner’s dilemma-type situation,” said Rahmani.
“It’s better for all the defendants if they hold the line and refuse to cooperate,” he went on. “But it’s better for each individual defendant to plead guilty and get little or no jail time. In fact, the defendants who plead earliest usually get the best deals. That’s why Hall got a no-time misdemeanor. Because he pleaded first and agreed to testify against the others.”
Hall may now have to contend with Trump calling him a “rat” on social media, but as a trial dates gets closer, there will be a lot of pressure on each defendant to take a deal and avoid prison.
“Will they remain loyal to the former president?” Rahmani said. “Or flip to save themselves?”
Hall and others coordinated with local GOP officials in Coffee County to improperly access an election computer system to scour for evidence of supposed voter fraud, according to text messages first reported by The Daily Beast.
Hall’s admission that he “aided, abetted and encouraged” others “in willfully tampering with electronic ballot markers and tabulating machines,” could spell trouble, in particular, for Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, both Trump’s former election lawyers who have been charged with similar crimes.
The plea deal between prosecutors and Hall “is significant because he’s the first one to go,” Richard Serafini, a former senior prosecutor at the Department of Justice, told The Daily Beast. “The first domino has to fall before the others do. No one wants to be the first, and you sure don’t want to be the last.”
The question is, how much knowledge does Hall have about Trump that will be useful to prosecutors? Whatever the answer, Hall’s deal could potentially prompt a cascade, according to Serafini, who said, “Once the dam breaks, the dam is going.”
“Assuming that the state has sufficient evidence, and it becomes obvious to the defendants that they’re likely to be convicted, we may see things start to open up even more,” he noted.
Chesebro and Powell have both maintained their innocence and are set to go to trial late next month however prosecutors indicated Friday that they’d likely be offered plea deals, too.