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Meadows, Giuliani, Jenna Ellis and Sidney Powell: The 18 defendants charged with Trump in Georgia RICO case

All are charged under a sweeping anti-racketeering statute for a ‘criminal enterprise’ to overthrow the election

Alex Woodward,Rachel Sharp
Wednesday 16 August 2023 11:29 BST
Donald Trump indicted for fourth time

A sprawling indictment targeting Donald Trump’s alleged efforts to overturn election results in the state of Georgia includes 18 co-defendants, including his former White House chief of staff, several Trump-allied attorneys, and the so-called “fake” electors who joined a scheme to subvert the outcome.

All are charged under the state’s anti-racketeering statute, marking one of the largest criminal cases against the former president and his allies for alleged crimes committed while he was in office in an attempt to remain in power at whatever cost.

Mark Meadows, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, John Eastman, Kenneth Cheseboro and Jenna Ellis are among the 19 defendants, along with former US Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark, several Trump aides, and those falsely appointed as “alternate” Georgia electors.

The indictment alleges 40 separate crimes and 161 different acts connected to an alleged criminal conspiracy.

“Trump and the other Defendants charged in this Indictment refused to accept that Trump lost, and they knowingly and willfully joined a conspiracy to unlawfully change the outcome of the election in favor of Trump,” according to the indictment. “That conspiracy contained a common plan and purpose to commit two or more acts of racketeering activity in Fulton County, Georgia, elsewhere in the State of Georgia, and in other states.”

Mr Trump and the 18 others named in the indictment are accused of making false statements in an effort to fraudulently persuade state officials, the US Department of Justice and Vice President Mike Pence to reject lawful votes and select a slate of electors loyal to the former president despite Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

They also are accused of traveling to the state to harass an election worker, “intimidate her, and solicit her to falsely confess to election crimes that she did not commit.”

Mr Trump and others also “corruptly conspired” to illegally access voting machines in the state, some of which was removed – “including ballot images, voting equipment software, and personal voter information” – and then “distributed to other members of the enterprise, including members in other states.”

Rudy Giuliani

The former New York City mayor was a key player among Mr Trump’s allies to overturn election results as a prominent Trump-allied attorney launching spurious legal challenges while elevating bogus claims and debunked conspiracy theories about election fraud.

He built his reputation as a prosecutor using RICO to target organised crime. He is now among 19 defendants charged under a sweeping anti-racketeering statute.

In December 2020, Mr Giuliani met with Georgia state legislators three times, including twice in person. During a state Senate committee hearing, he falsely claimed that Georgia election workers smuggled “suitcases” of fraudulent ballots.

He specifically named two election workers – Ruby Freeman and Wandrea “Shaye” Moss – and falsely claimed that they were “surreptitiously passing around USB ports as if they are vials of heroin or cocaine”.

His bogus claims fuelled a wave of harassment and threats against both women, who have sued him for defamation in a long-running lawsuit in which he is no longer contesting that he made false and defamatory statements about them.

Last year, he was informed that he was a subject in a criminal investigation into election interference in the state, marking the first time that one of Mr Trump’s close advisers was targeted for potential crimes connected to the 2020 election. He later appeared for six hours before a special purpose grand jury investigating the case.

Mr Giuliani called the indictment an “affront to American democracy” that does “permanent, irrevocable harm to our justice system.”

“The real criminals here are the people who have brought this case forward both directly and indirectly,” he said.

He is charged under the RICO Act and faces three counts of solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer; three counts of false statements and writings; conspiracy to commit impersonation of a public officer; two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree forgery; two counts of conspiracy to commit false statements and writings; and conspiracy to commit filing false documents.

Mark Meadows

Mr Trump’s White House chief of staff is accused of playing a key role in advancing the former president’s alleged criminal enterprise, allegedly assisting a pressure campaign to get Georgia officials to reject election results in the state.

He joined the phone call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which Mr Trump urged him to “find” votes in his favour and reverse Mr Biden’s decisive victory in the state in the days leading up to January 6.

Mr Meadows also made a surprise December 2020 visit to an election centre outside Atlanta, an incident that Ms Willis specifically cited in a subpoena for his appearance before the special purpose grand jury. He unsuccessfully fought against appearing.

He is charged under the RICO Act and faces one count of solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer.

Kenneth Chesebro

The Trump-allied attorney was among the architects of the fake electors plot, a scheme to plant fake electors in seven states that Mr Biden won and have them fraudulently cast Electoral College votes in Mr Trump’s favour instead.

Mr Chesebro’s name wasn’t widely known until last December when a report from a House committee investigating the events surrounding the attack on the US Capitol on January 6 named Mr Chesebro as the overall leader of the multi-state plot.

The report revealed the details of memos sent by Mr Chesebro on 18 November, 9 December and 13 December that “laid the plan’s foundation”.

A third email – sent to Mr Giuliani on 13 December, 2020 – falsely suggested that then Vice President Mike Pence could reject Mr Biden’s “actual electoral votes for any State where the Trump Campaign organized fake electors, simply ‘because there are two slates of votes’,” according to the report.

The fake electors met the following day.

In Georgia, 16 fake electors signed a certificate falsely declaring that Mr Trump had won the election and that they were the “duly elected and qualified” electors in the state.

He is charged under the RICO Act and faces conspiracy to impersonate a public officer; two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree forgery; two counts of conspiracy to commit false statements and writings; and conspiracy to commit filing false documents.

John Eastman

The former attorney for Mr Trump, former dean of Chapman University’s law school and former law clerk of conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was another key advocate for advancing the fake elector plot in the 2020 election.

At a Georgia Senate hearing in December 2020, Mr Eastman falsely claimed that state lawmakers both the power and “duty” to replace a slate of Democratic electors with a group of alternate electors who would fraudulently cast votes for Mr Trump.

He authored a memo falsely outlining how Mr Pence could overturn electoral college results during a joint session of Congress on 6 January 2021.

Mr Eastman also testified before the special purpose grand jury in Georgia in August 2022 where his legal team said that he was advised to invoke the Fifth Amendment and attorney-client privilege as Mr Trump’s lawyer.

He is charged under the RICO Act and faces a count of solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer; conspiracy to commit impersonating a public officer; two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree forgery; two counts of conspiracy to commit false statements and writings; conspiracy to commit filing false documents; and filing false documents.

Sidney Powell

The prominent election conspiracy theorist mounted what she claimed would be a “Kraken” case to blow up the 2020 presidential election. Ms Powell – who amplified false claims and conspiracy theories about Dominion Voting Systems that were central to a landmark defamation settlement between the company and Fox News – is charged in connection with her spurious attempts to overturn Georgia’s results and breach voting machine data in the state.

Ms Powell’s claims, which even Mr Trump allegedly called “crazy”, powered lawsuits in several battleground states, including a November 2020 challenge against Georgia Governor Brian Kemp alleging that there was “massive election fraud” in the state. That lawsuit was dismissed the next month.

She was called to appear before the Fulton County special purpose grand jury but refused to show.

She is charged under the RICO Act and faces two counts of conspiracy to commit election fraud; conspiracy to commit computer theft; conspiracy to commit computer trespass; conspiracy to commit computer invasion of privacy; and conspiracy to defraud the state.

Jeffrey Clark

The former US Department of Justice official, once briefly considered by Mr Trump for US Attorney General, is accused of leveraging the federal agency to advance bogus election fraud claims and the fake elector plot.

He allegedly proposed sending a letter to state officials in Georgia and elsewhere claiming that the Justice Department had “identified significant concerns” about the results and should consider sending “a separate slate of electors” supporting Mr Trump to be approved by Congress.

“Willis is exceeding her powers by inserting herself into the operations of the federal government to go after Jeff,” Rachel Cauley with the Center for Renewing America said in a written statement. “It’s clear Willis aspires to higher office and is using this witch hunt to climb the political ladder. Jeff Clark was simply doing his job in 2020 and he doesn’t deserve to be subjected to this naked political lawfare.”

Mr Clark is charged under the RICO Act and faces a count of making a criminal attempt to create false statements and writings.

Jenna Ellis

The Trump-allied lawyer was initially hired by the campaign in November 2019 and joined a legal team that launched spurious lawsuits to reject election results in states that Mr Trump lost.

Earlier this year, she was censured by a Colorado judge and signed a legal acknowledgment that “she made a number of public statements about the November 2020 presidential election that were false” and did so with a “reckless state of mind”.

“The Democrats and the Fulton County DA are criminalizing the practice of law,” she wrote in a statement following the indictment. “I am resolved to trust the Lord and I will simply continue to honor, praise, and serve Him. I deeply appreciate all of my friends who have reached out offering encouragement and support.”

She is charged under the RICO Act and faces one count of solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer.

Mike Roman

The GOP operative helped coordinate the so-called “alternative” elector scheme in emails later published by the House select committee investigating January 6.

He is charged under the RICO Act and faces a count of conspiracy to impersonate a public officer; two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree forgery; two counts of conspiracy to commit false statements and writings; and conspiracy to commit filing false documents.

Ray Smith III

The Atlanta-based attorney led a Trump campaign suit challenging election results in Georgia and sent a letter to state officials raising bogus allegations of election fraud. Mr Smith also joined a meeting of Trump electors on 14 December, 2020.

He is charged under the RICO Act and faces three counts of solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer; three counts of false statements and writings; conspiracy to impersonate a public officer; two counts of conspiracy to commit false statements and writings; and two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree forgery.

The breach of voting machines

Coffee County elections supervisor Misty Hampton, who allegedly connected Trump operatives to accessing voting equipment, and Scott Hall, an Atlanta-area Trump supporter and bail bondsman, also were charged in connection with a scheme to access voting machine software.

Cathy Latham – the chair of the Coffee County Republican Party who was also among the 16 fake electors – met with Mr Hall and forensics contractors at Coffee County’s elections office, where data was copied from the county’s election software. She appeared to pose for a selfie with one of them, according to surveillance footage, though she later denied her involvement in the scheme.

Robert Cheeley, who separately served as an attorney for Ms Latham, also was among people who testified in December 2020 against the outcome of the election. He falsely claimed during a legislative hearing that election workers were double- and triple-counting votes.

He is charged under the RICO Act and faces one count of conspiracy to impersonate a public officer; two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree forgery; two counts conspiracy to commit false statements and writings; conspiracy to commit filing false documents; solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer; and false statements and writings; perjury.

Ms Latham is charged under the RICO Act and faces counts of impersonating a public officer; first-degree forgery; false statements and writings; criminal attempt to commit filing false documents; two counts of conspiracy to commit election fraud; conspiracy to commit computer theft; conspiracy to commit computer trespass; conspiracy to commit computer invasion of privacy; conspiracy to defraud the state.

Mr Hall and Ms Hampton are both charged under the RICO Act and each faces two counts of conspiracy to commit election fraud; conspiracy to commit computer theft; conspiracy to commit computer trespass; conspiracy to commit computer invasion of privacy; and conspiracy to defraud the state.

The ‘fake’ electors

The “electors” charged in the indictment include David Shafer, the former chair of the Georgia Republican Party, current state Senator Shawn Still, and Ms Latham.

Mr Shafer presided over a meeting of fraudulent electors in December 2020, which Mr Sill attended.

They both are charged under the RICO Act and face counts of impersonating a public officer; two counts of first-degree forgery; making false statements and writings; and criminal attempt to commit filing false documents.

The campaign against election workers

Three people are implicated in a pressure campaign against Georgia election worker Ruby Freeman, who along with Shaye Moss was subject to relentless harassment and abuse over false claims that she manipulated election results – bogus claims elevated by Mr Trump and Mr Giuliani, who is at the centre of a defamation lawsuit brought by both women.

Trevian Kutti, a former publicist for Kanye West, allegedly told Ms Freeman that an “armed squad” of law enforcement officers would find her and her family if she did not falsely admit to committing election fraud. She offered to connect Ms Freeman to “very high-profile people that can make particular things happen … in order to defend yourself and your family” and labeled her “a loose end for a party that needs to tidy up” or could risk her “freedom and the freedom of one or more of your family members,” according to court documents citing police video.

She is charged under the RICO Act and faces a count of conspiracy to commit solicitation of false statements and writings and a count of influencing witnesses.

Stephen Lee was discovered at Ms Freeman’s home in December 2020 after a 911 call after Mr Lee allegedly repeatedly knocked on her door. He told officers he was “working with some folks to help Ruby out” and “get some truth.”

He then sought assistance from Ms Kutti and Harrison Floyd, a former congressional candidate for Illinois and an organiser with Black Voices for Trump.

Mr Lee is charged under the RICO Act and faces two counts of criminal attempt to commit influencing witnesses; conspiracy to commit solicitation of false statements and writings; influencing witnesses.

Mr Floyd is charged under the RICO Act and faces a count of conspiracy to commit solicitation of false statements and writings and influencing witnesses.

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