Ms. Powell, a member of the Trump legal team in 2020, will cooperate with prosecutors seeking to convict the former president in an election interference case in Georgia.
Sidney K. Powell pleaded guilty to six misdemeanor counts related to Donald J. Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia.CreditCredit…Ben Margot/Associated Press
Sidney K. Powell, who spun some of the wildest conspiracy theories about ballot fraud as a member of Donald J. Trump’s legal team after he lost the 2020 election, pleaded guilty on Thursday morning to six misdemeanor counts. She is one of 19 people, including Mr. Trump, who were indicted in August for trying to subvert the election results in Georgia, and she has agreed to testify against any of the remaining defendants.
Her guilty plea was a blow to Mr. Trump, who faces the most charges of any defendant other than Rudolph W. Giuliani, his former personal lawyer. Significantly, Ms. Powell is the first of Mr. Trump’s close advisers from the post-election period to flip, which could also help the federal election interference case against him.
Cracking the former president’s inner circle has long been a challenge for prosecutors, as it was for the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riots. Ms. Powell, 68, was a frequent visitor to the White House after the election and had direct dealings with the highest-profile defendants in the case, including Mr. Trump, who considered naming her a special counsel to investigate voter fraud.
Appearing Thursday in a downtown Atlanta courtroom, she was sentenced to six years of probation for six counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with performance of election duties. That is a significantly less-severe outcome than she would have faced if found guilty of the seven felonies for which she was originally indicted, which included a violation of the state racketeering law. Her criminal trial was set to begin next week.
The charges against Ms. Powell largely related to her role in helping carry out a breach of voting equipment in a rural Georgia county in January 2021, as Trump allies fruitlessly sought evidence of ballot fraud. She was also fined $6,000 and agreed to pay $2,700 in restitution to the state of Georgia, as well as turn over documents related to the case and write an apology letter to the state’s citizens.
Ms. Powell is the second to take a plea deal in the Georgia case; last month, Scott Hall, 59, a Georgia bail bondsman, pleaded guilty to five misdemeanors. He had been accused, with Ms. Powell and others, of breaching voting equipment in Coffee County, Ga.
Few defenders of Mr. Trump promoted election fraud theories after his 2020 defeat to Joseph R. Biden Jr. as stridently as Ms. Powell. In high-profile appearances, often alongside other members of the Trump legal team, she pushed conspiracies involving Venezuela, Cuba and China, as well as George Soros, Hugo Chávez and the Clintons; she also baselessly claimed that voting machines had flipped millions of votes from Mr. Trump to Mr. Biden.
But on Thursday, she herself pleaded guilty to taking part in a conspiracy to tamper with an election. During Ms. Powell’s appearance in Fulton County Superior Court on Thursday morning, Judge Scott McAfee asked her: “Are you pleading guilty today because you agree that there is a sufficient factual basis, that there are enough facts, that support this plea of guilty?”
“I do,” she replied.
Ms. Powell was prosecuted under the Georgia First Offender Act, which allows people with no prior felonies to avoid having the conviction on their permanent record if they comply with the terms of their sentence. Daysha D. Young, an assistant district attorney, noted in court that if Ms. Powell successfully complies with her sentence, she can then “honestly say” that she has “never been convicted of these charges.”
Ms. Powell gave prosecutors a recorded statement on Wednesday as part of her plea deal.
“If she’s already given a statement, she’s obviously given the prosecution some useful information,” said Melissa D. Redmon, an assistant law professor at the University of Georgia and a former Fulton County prosecutor.
Ms. Redmon said that it would be particularly helpful to the state’s case if Ms. Powell provided evidence that Mr. Trump and other high-profile defendants carried out a plan to assemble bogus electors — a major piece of the case — while knowing that they actually had no proof of widespread voter fraud.
Steven H. Sadow, Mr. Trump’s lead Georgia lawyer, said in a statement that any “truthful testimony in the Fulton County case” would be “favorable to my overall defense strategy.” He did not elaborate.
Ms. Powell had been preparing to go on trial with Kenneth Chesebro, a legal architect of the fake electors plan. Both had demanded a speedy trial, while Mr. Trump and most other remaining defendants are likely to be tried much later. Mr. Chesebro is now scheduled to be tried alone.
Ms. Powell’s lawyer, Brian T. Rafferty, filed numerous motions ahead of the trial seeking to have the charges dismissed, but was not successful. Before her plea agreement, Mr. Rafferty also claimed in filings that Ms. Powell “did not represent President Trump or the Trump campaign” after the election.
But those claims were undercut by Ms. Powell’s own past words, as well as those of Mr. Trump and ample video evidence of her taking part in news conferences alongside other lawyers for the then president.
It was not immediately clear what impact the plea would have on Ms. Powell’s law license. A spokeswoman for the Texas Bar Association said it would not affect a disciplinary proceeding already underway, and that she was not sure if the plea would result in a separate disciplinary case.
The current proceeding, which concerns misrepresentations that Ms. Powell is accused of having made in lawsuits filed after the 2020 election, was dismissed by a lower court but has been appealed by the bar association.
Most of the charges against Ms. Powell involved thedata breach at the Coffee County elections office. There, on the day after the Jan. 6 riot, Trump allies copied sensitive and proprietary software used in voting machines throughout the state to hunt for ballot fraud.
Ms. Powell was not there, but she was one of the lawyers who hired a consulting firm, SullivanStrickler, that assisted in the effort. The firm invoiced Ms. Powell more than $26,000 for its work, and her organization, Defending the Republic, paid the bill.
Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, subsequently replaced Coffee County’s voting machines and said that “the unauthorized access to the equipment” had violated Georgia law.
Ms. Powell’s restitution will go toward covering the costs of replacing the election equipment, prosecutors said.