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Private emails indicate that Fulton County prosecutors are seeking prison sentences for former President Donald Trump and his top allies in the Georgia criminal case. The charges are related to their alleged violation of the racketeering statute as part of their attempts to overturn the 2020 election results.
“We have a long road ahead,” Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis wrote in one email last month. “Long after these folks are in jail, we will still be practicing law.”
The private correspondence between Willis and the defense lawyers sheds light on the prosecution team’s ultimate goal. This information could potentially influence legal tactics in anticipation of a forthcoming trial, including the negotiation of plea agreements, The Guardian reported.
Currently, prosecutors do not anticipate extending plea agreements to Trump, his former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and his former election lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. According to The Guardian, they haven’t ruled out the possibility of speaking with other co-defendants.
The emails highlight the escalating erosion of trust between defense lawyers and prosecutors, who are increasingly seen as employing overly aggressive and presumptuous tactics, such as Willis assuming victory, even though the case is still months away from a potential verdict.
During a conversation on November 29, Willis mentioned the possibility of incarcerated defendants. This conversation began when Steve Sadow, Trump’s lawyer, expressed dissatisfaction with an incomplete transcript of Giuliani’s statements that the defense team received during the legal process. This information comes from two individuals who have direct knowledge of the emails.
Willis stated that the defense lawyers would be provided with the complete transcript in the upcoming release of discovery.
Willis expressed annoyance at not receiving her formal title during the heated exchanges and took offense at the implication that they were purposefully 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.”
Willis introduced a new aspect to the email by suggesting that it is important to maintain professionalism, as their legal careers will persist even if the co-defendants in the election case are incarcerated. Willis concluded with the phrase “Yours in service.”
Sadow replied, “Thank you for your email.”
In August, Trump and 18 co-defendants initially entered a plea of not guilty to charges of violating Georgia’s state racketeering statute while attempting to overturn the 2020 election. Over the next few weeks, four out of the 18 individuals involved in the case reached negotiated plea agreements and removed themselves from it.
Some defense lawyers were deeply concerned by the district attorney’s casual use of a prison threat, which caused consternation among them. Numerous people who are familiar with the situation have reported this information.
“Long after these folks are in jail, we will still be practicing law.” @hugolowell obtained a private email from Fani Willis to defense attorneys in the Fulton county RICO case https://t.co/LpNstY3kka
— Sam Levine (@srl) December 7, 2023
According to sources familiar with the case, the relationship between prosecutors and defense attorneys has become notably tense in recent weeks.
This tension primarily resulted from the publication by various media outlets of recorded “proffer” statements made by former Trump attorneys Jenna Ellis, Sidney Powell, and Kenneth Chesebro as part of their plea agreements.
The district attorney’s office had previously held the belief, confidentially, that Trump’s team was responsible for the unauthorized release of the videos. However, they were taken aback when Misty Hampton’s lawyer openly admitted during a court hearing that he had shared the videos with a specific news outlet.
Due to the release of the proffer statements, prosecutors decided to request an urgent protective order on discovery materials. They also declined to give defense lawyers any copies of future proffer videos. Instead, the lawyers would be required to watch the videos at the district attorney’s offices in Atlanta.
In the distinct federal 2020 election subversion case filed against Trump in Washington, the materials obtained during the investigation were promptly placed under a protective order upon Trump’s indictment. However, the special counsel prosecutors have not compelled Trump’s lawyers to exclusively examine the discovery material in person.
Scott McAfee, the presiding judge in the case, ultimately agreed to enforce a protective order that regulates the release of sensitive discovery materials. However, the proposal to limit access to proffer videos only at the district attorney’s offices was abandoned.