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Ga. judge: Trump codefendants' 'privacy' not enough to seal dockets

Georgia Judge Scott McAfee said 'public interest' in the case outweighs privacy concerns, and said online coverage would likely go on 'in perpetuity.'
Ga. judge: Trump codefendants' 'privacy' not enough to seal dockets
Posted at 8:41 PM, Oct 31, 2023

A Georgia judge presiding over the state's RICO case against former President Donald Trump and other codefendants now says the public interest in the case outweighs privacy concerns for the defendants, and has decided not to seal criminal dockets in the case. 

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee said attorneys Sidney Powell and Ken Chesebro, along with Jenna Ellis and bail bondsman Scott Hall would not have their privacy concerns accepted as a deciding factor to determine if the court would seal their dockets, even if they are first-time offenders under Georgia’s First Offender Act, and regardless of whether they pleaded guilty to lesser charges. 

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Judge McAfee said in his ruling Tuesday, "Recognizing the considerable and reasonable public interest in this case, the court does not find that the harm otherwise resulting to the privacy of the defendants outweighs the public interest in the criminal history record information and docket being publicly available." 

McAfee wrote, "Upon successful completion and discharge of their sentences, the defendants remain able to renew their sealing request," offering them a time in the future to revisit the matter. 

Ellis, who is also considered to be a prominent figure in conservative media, pleaded guilty to a felony charge in late October, connected to accusations that she was involved in efforts to try to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia as Trump fought to stay in the White House. 

Ellis told the judge in the case that she reflects back on that period with "deep remorse."

Prosecutors say Ellis authored legal documents that outlined strategies to disrupt how electoral votes were counted. 

Chesebro is accused of being part of a small group of advisers in the scheme that pushed GOP lawmakers in battleground states to submit fake electors to falsely push the narrative that Trump was the winner of the election, and not Joe Biden. 

John Fishwick, a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, said the case against Powell is not a "slam dunk."

Fishwick said, though, that it's "not a good day for him [Trump] when she pleads guilty."

Prosecutors say Powell was at a key December 2020 White House meeting with others who are accused of planning strategies to keep then-President Trump in the White House. Trump reportedly considered naming Powell as special counsel to investigate election fraud claims. 

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