Jenna Ellis, Former Trump Lawyer, Pleads Guilty in Georgia Election Case

Three lawyers indicted with Donald Trump for trying to overturn the 2020 election results will now cooperate with prosecutors in the racketeering case.

Richard Fausset
Danny Hakim

By Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim

Richard Fausset reported from Atlanta and Danny Hakim from Rockville, Maryland.

Oct. 24, 2023Updated 12:49 p.m. ET

Jenna Ellis, a pro-Trump lawyer who amplified former President Donald J. Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud as part of what she called a legal “elite strike force team,” pleaded guilty on Tuesday as part of a deal with prosecutors in Georgia.

Addressing a judge in an Atlanta courtroom, she tearfully expressed regret for taking part in efforts to keep Mr. Trump in power after he lost the 2020 election.

Ms. Ellis, 38, pleaded guilty to a charge of aiding and abetting false statements and writings, a felony. She is the fourth defendant to plead guilty in the Georgia case, which charged Mr. Trump and 18 others with conspiring to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Mr. Trump’s favor.

Ms. Ellis agreed to be sentenced to five years of probation, pay $5,000 in restitution and perform 100 hours of community service. She has already written an apology letter to the citizens of Georgia, and she agreed to cooperate fully with prosecutors as the case progresses.

Prosecutors struck plea deals last week with Kenneth Chesebro, an architect of the effort to deploy fake Trump electors in Georgia and other swing states, and Sidney Powell, an outspoken member of Mr. Trump’s legal team who spun wild conspiracy claims in the aftermath of the election.

Late last month, Scott Hall, a bail bondsman charged along with Ms. Powell with taking part in a breach of voting equipment and data at a rural Georgia county’s elections office, pleaded guilty in the case.

Fani T. Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., obtained an indictment of the 19 defendants in August on racketeering and other charges, alleging that they took part in a criminal enterprise that conspired to interfere with the 2020 presidential election in Georgia.

Ms. Ellis, unlike the other defendants who have pleaded guilty, asked the court to let her give a statement. She cried as she rose from the defense table and said, “As an attorney who is also a Christian, I take my responsibilities as a lawyer very seriously.”

She said that after Mr. Trump’s defeat in 2020, she believed that challenging the election results on his behalf should have been pursued in a “just and legal way.” But she said that she had relied on information provided by other lawyers, including some “with many more years of experience than I,” and failed to do her “due diligence” in checking the veracity of their claims.

“If I knew then what I know now, I would have declined to represent Donald Trump in these postelection challenges,” Ms. Ellis told Judge Scott McAfee of Fulton County Superior Court. “I look back on this experience with deep remorse. For those failures of mine, your honor, I’ve taken responsibility already before the Colorado bar, who censured me, and I now take responsibility before this court and apologize to the people of Georgia.”

In March, Ms. Ellis admitted in a sworn statement in Colorado, her home state, that she had knowingly misrepresented the facts in several public claims that widespread voting fraud had occurred and had led to Mr. Trump’s defeat. Those admissions were part of an agreement Ms. Ellis made to accept public censure and settle disciplinary measures brought against her by state bar officials in Colorado.

Though she is still able to practice law in Colorado, the group that brought the original complaint against her, leading to the censure, said on Tuesday that new action would be coming.

“We do plan to file a new complaint in Colorado based on the guilty plea, so that the bar can assess the matter in light of her criminal conduct,” said Michael Teter, managing director of the 65 Project, a bipartisan legal watchdog group.

Ms. Ellis’s new misgivings about Mr. Trump and his refusal to accept his election loss were evident before her plea on Tuesday.

Last month, on her Christian broadcasting radio show, she called Mr. Trump “a friend” and added, “I have great love and respect for him personally.” But she said on the show that she could not support him politically again, because he displayed a “malignant narcissistic tendency to simply say that he’s never done anything wrong.” 

Richard Fausset is a correspondent based in Atlanta. He mainly writes about the American South, focusing on politics, culture, race, poverty and criminal justice. He previously worked at The Los Angeles Times, including as a foreign correspondent in Mexico City.More about Richard Fausset

Danny Hakim is an investigative reporter. He has been a European economics correspondent and bureau chief in Albany and Detroit. He was also a lead reporter on the team awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News. More about Danny Hakim

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