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Georgia prosecutors predict jail sentences in Trump 2020 election case | Georgia

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Georgia prosecutors predict jail sentences in Trump 2020 election case | Georgia


Exclusive: Fulton county prosecutors say in emails their legal careers will continue long after defendants go to jail

Fulton county prosecutors have signaled they want prison sentences in the Georgia criminal case against Donald Trump and his top allies for allegedly violating the racketeering statute as part of efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, according to exchanges in private emails.

“We have a long road ahead,” the Fulton county district attorney, Fani Willis, wrote in one email. “Long after these folks are in jail, we will still be practicing law.”

The previously unreported emails, between Willis and defense lawyers, open a window on to the endgame envisioned by prosecutors on her team – which could inform legal strategies ahead of a potential trial next year, such as approaches toward plea deal negotiations.

Prosecutors are not presently expected to offer plea agreements to Trump, his former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and his former election lawyer Rudy Giuliani, but left open the possibility of talks with other co-defendants, the Guardian previously reported.

The emails also underscore the increasing breakdown in trust with a growing number of defense lawyers who have regarded prosecutors’ tactics – including Willis assuming she will win – as inappropriately aggressive and presumptuous given the case remains months from a potential verdict.

The district attorney raised the prospect of defendants in prison in a 29 November exchange, which started with Trump’s lawyer Steve Sadow complaining about an incomplete Giuliani transcript the defense received in discovery, according to two people with direct knowledge of the emails.

Judge Scott McAfee listens during a hearing in the case against Trump in Fulton county, Atlanta, on 1 December. Photograph: John David Mercer/EPA

Willis responded that the defense lawyers would receive the full transcript in the next production of discovery and, in increasingly tense exchanges, took offense that she was not being referred to by her formal title as well as the implicit accusation that they were withholding evidence.

“No one placed me here and I have earned this title,” Willis said, apparently taking umbrage that she was not referred to specifically as the district attorney, but as a prosecutor. “I’ve never practiced law by hiding the ball, I’ve enjoyed beating folks by making sure they have the entire file.”

The email took a turn when Willis added that they should remain professional because their legal careers would continue even after the election case co-defendants went to jail. Willis signed off: “yours in service”.

Sadow replied: “Thank you for your email.”

Trump and 18 co-defendants in August originally pleaded not guilty to charges that they violated Georgia’s state racketeering statute as they sought to overturn the 2020 election. In the following weeks, four of the 18 negotiated plea deals and extricated themselves from the case.

The remark about jail caused consternation with some of the defense lawyers, who have been aghast that the district attorney’s office would throw around what they took as a prison threat in a cavalier manner, according to multiple people familiar with the situation.

A spokesperson for Willis declined to comment.

Relations between prosecutors and defense lawyers have been particularly strained in recent weeks, people close to the case have said, mainly since several media outlets published videotaped “proffer” statements that the former Trump lawyers Jenna Ellis, Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro gave as part of plea deals.

The district attorney’s office had privately believed Trump’s team leaked the videos, only to be surprised when the lawyer for the former Coffee county elections official Misty Hampton acknowledged at a court hearing that he had disseminated videos to a certain news outlet.

The leak of the proffer statements prompted prosecutors to seek an emergency protective order on discovery materials and to refuse to provide copies of any future proffer videos to defense lawyers, who would instead have to view them in the district attorney’s offices in Atlanta.

In the separate federal 2020 election subversion case brought against Trump in Washington, the discovery materials were subject to a protective order almost as soon as Trump was charged. But special counsel prosecutors have not forced Trump’s lawyers to only view the discovery in person.

The Fulton county superior judge Scott McAfee, who is presiding in the case, ultimately agreed to impose a protective order governing the release of discovery materials marked as “sensitive”, though the threat to only have proffer videos available in the district attorney’s offices was dropped.

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