ATLANTA - Jenna Ellis, an attorney and prominent conservative media figure, reached a deal with prosecutors Tuesday and pleaded guilty to reduced charges over efforts to overturn Donald Trump's 2020 election loss in Georgia.
"I look back on this whole experience with deep remorse," Ellis said. "If I knew then what I know now, I would have declined to represent Donald Trump in these postelection challenges."
Ellis, the fourth defendant in the case to enter into a plea deal, was a vocal part of Trump's reelection campaign in the last presidential cycle and was charged alongside the Republican former president and 17 others with violating the state's anti-racketeering law .
Former Trump attorney Jenna Ellis (center) pleads guilty in Georgia 2020 election interference case Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023.
Ellis, 38, pleaded guilty to a count of aiding and abetting false statements and writings. She had been facing charges of violating Georgia's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and soliciting the violation of oath by a public officer.
Jenna Ellis (Fulton County Sheriff's Office)
The guilty plea from Ellis comes just days after two other defendants, fellow attorneys Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, entered guilty pleas. That means three high-profile people responsible for pushing baseless legal challenges to Democrat Joe Biden's 2020 election victory have agreed to accept responsibility for their roles rather than take their chances before a jury.
Prosecutors recommend five years of probation for Ellis along with $5,000 in restitution, 100 hours of community service, writing an apology letter to the people of Georgia and testifying truthfully in trials related to this case.
The early pleas and the favorable punishment - probation rather than jail - could foreshadow similar outcomes for additional defendants who may see an admission of guilt and cooperation as their best hope for leniency. Even so, their value as witnesses against Trump is unclear given that their direct participation in unfounded schemes will no doubt expose them to attacks on their credibility and bruising cross-examinations should they testify.
"She’s an important witness as well," said Tom Church, a criminal defense attorney not involved with the case. Church says Ellis’s testimony could be crucial for the DA’s office as they try to build a case against the former president. "She was there during those important meetings. She heard what Powell and Cheseboro said. She can corroborate what they’re saying."
"You can expect the defense lawyers to attack their credibility," Church said. "If they’re wilting under pressure or if they contradict themselves, that evidence is useless and that’s a huge boon for the defense."
Darryl Cohen, a former Assistant District Attorney in Fulton County, says a strong defense would aggressively attack the credibility of prosecution witnesses.
"If the witness is testifying to something that is major, it can hurt the prosecution’s case a lot," Cohen said. "Isn’t it true Mr. / Ms. witness that you were promised something as a result of a guilty plea? Isn’t it true that there was leniency as a result of it? Then the argument in front of the jury is ‘this witness is lying. They’re not telling the truth.’"
The indictment in the sweeping case details a number of accusations against Ellis, including that she helped author plans on how to disrupt and delay congressional certification of the 2020 election's results on Jan. 6, 2021, the day a mob of Trump supporters eventually overran the U.S. Capitol .
Ellis is also accused of urging state legislators to unlawfully appoint a set of presidential electors loyal to Trump at a hearing in Pennsylvania, and she later appeared with some of those lawmakers and Trump at a meeting on the topic at the White House. The indictment further says she similarly pushed state lawmakers to back false, pro-Trump electors in Georgia as well as Arizona and Michigan.
Before her plea, Ellis was defiant, posting in August on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, "The Democrats and the Fulton County DA are criminalizing the practice of law. I am resolved to trust the Lord."
But she has been more critical of Trump since then, saying on conservative radio in September that she wouldn't vote for him again, citing his "malignant, narcissistic tendency to simply say that he's never done anything wrong."
Along with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Ellis was a leading voice in the Trump campaign's efforts to overturn the 2020 election, appearing frequently on television and conservative media to tell lies about widespread fraud that did not occur and spread misinformation and conspiracy theories.
She was censured in Colorado in March after admitting she made repeated false statements about the 2020 election.
That punishment was due in part to a Nov. 20, 2020, appearance on Newsmax, during which she said, "With all those states (Nevada, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Georgia) combined we know that the election was stolen from President Trump, and we can prove that."
Powell pleaded guilty to six misdemeanors accusing her of conspiring to intentionally interfere with the performance of election duties. Powell will serve six years of probation, will be fined $6,000 and has to write an apology letter to Georgia and its residents.
Chesebro pleaded guilty to one felony charge of conspiracy to commit filing false documents just as jury selection was getting underway in his trial. He was sentenced to five years' probation and 100 hours of community service and was ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution, write an apology letter to Georgia's residents and testify truthfully at any related future trial.
A lower-profile defendant in the case, bail bondsman Scott Graham Hall, pleaded guilty last month to five misdemeanor charges. He was sentenced to five years of probation and agreed to testify in further proceedings.
Weissert reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.