This is how we do it
The standard practice for prosecutors who are trying to hold the leaders of a group of criminals accountable is to “go up the chain.” In a drug trafficking case, that means you start with lower level defendants, perhaps people engaged in hand-to-hand drug buys that are readily provable. Then the prosecutor “flips” that defendant to help prosecutors make a case on his supplier. They continue up the chain as far as they can, reaching larger and larger dealers, regional suppliers, and hopefully, depending on the type of case, they end up able to prosecute the leaders of the drug trafficking organization.
This works when a lower level defendant understands that by cooperating with prosecutors, he can limit his own criminal exposure, perhaps avoiding prosecution altogether, or being permitted to plead to lower level charges that carry less time in prison. Some defendants plead guilty to all of the charges against them, but receive a favorable recommendation at sentencing from prosecutors because of their cooperation, asking the judge to give them a lower sentence than they would otherwise receive.
Successful cooperation is conditioned on truthful testimony. Cooperating defendants understand that if they lie about anything, the deal is off. Prosecutors drill anyone being offered a deal on this point. And better deals are available to defendants who cooperate early—“first in gets the best deal” is something you’ll hear prosecutors say—when getting the first a break in a case is more crucial.
That brings us to today and Scott Hall, an Atlanta-area bail bondsman who was facing seven charges in the Fulton County case, including a RICO violation and conspiring to steal sensitive election data in Coffee County. This afternoon, with little advance notice, Hall pled guilty to five misdemeanors, will serve five years of probation, pay a $5,000 fine, and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. It’s the sort of deal that is so beneficial to a defendant that it suggests prosecutors believe his cooperation is valuable enough to merit the bargain.
So what might Hall be able to do? It’s not clear how important of a role he played in the overall scheme, and who he might have had direct communications with. But Hall was in the thick of things with Sidney Powell when she went to Coffee County, Georgia on January 7, the day after the insurrection, to carry out her scheme to illegally access voting machines. Hall’s cooperation is a bad sign for Powell. And Powell, in turn, had conversations about pursuing the Big Lie with others in the group and was in the room with Trump during some of the key conversations.
Sidney Powell isn't the only Trump co-defendant who should be concerned by Hall’s plea deal. Hall reportedly had an hour long call with Jeff Clark on January 2nd. That’s a long time for the Georgia bail bondsman to have been on the line with the Attorney General-wannabe who wanted to push states Biden won to call those results into question based on untrue allegations of fraud to try and swing the electoral vote call to Trump. It’s unlikely the call was just an hour of pleasantries. Precisely what was said and how good Hall’s recollection is—and whether or not he has contemporaneous notes or other verification of what took place during the call—remains to be seen.
If prosecutors follow a typical trajecotry, they will work up the chain from Hall to Powell and Clark, and perhaps others. It’s hard to imagine that either of them wants to spend a significant amount of time in state prison in Georgia, especially to protect Donald Trump. So far there’s no sign either one has seriously contemplated a plea. But they know, and now prosecutors do as well, about their interactions with Hall and what testimony he can offer against them. They are now the next step up in the chain. Prosecutors have already said they will offer deals to both Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, whose trials are set to begin on October 23, although those deals are very unlikely to be as generous as Hall’s given the extent and nature of their conduct. But if prosecutors are able to make deals with either of them, or with Jeff Clark, that’s extremely bad news for Donald Trump. And Fani Willis, because she’s indicted local Georgia figures along with Trump and his legal and political advisers, is uniquely suited to make deals like the one with Hall that aren’t available to Special Counsel Jack Smith, who indicted Mr. Trump as a standalone defendant. Any deals Willis makes could benefit both of their cases. Things could get very interesting this week as more defendants begit to feel the squeeze.
Perhaps there will be more plea agreements this coming week.
We’re in this together,