Co-Defendant in Georgia Trump Case Says He Won’t Take Plea Deal

Jack Phillips
By Jack Phillips
November 12, 2023Trump Indictment
Co-Defendant in Georgia Trump Case Says He Won’t Take Plea Deal
Lutheran pastor Stephen Cliffgard Lee poses for his booking photo at the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta on Aug. 25, 2023. (Fulton County Sheriff's Office via Getty Images)

A lesser-known co-defendant in the Fulton County, Georgia, election case that has ensnared former President Donald Trump and more than a dozen others has said that he won’t cooperate in the case.

Rev. Stephen Cliffgard Lee, a pastor at Living Word Lutheran Church in Orland Park, was indicted in August along with 18 others, including former President Trump, in Georgia. The Illinois-based pastor faces racketeering, influencing a witness, and conspiracy to solicit false statements and writings, although he has pleaded not guilty.

Several of the defendants in the case, including former Trump campaign attorney Jena Ellis and Sidney Powell, have entered guilty pleas as part of plea deals with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

“I am not going to plead out to a lie,” Mr. Lee told a crowd during a fundraising event at a local church, according to the Chicago Tribune. “I’m not going to cooperate with evil. This is bigger than me.”

If convicted, Mr. Lee stated that he faces a minimum of five years in a Georgia prison, the paper reported.

The pastor said his legal fees could cost around $150,000, and he has to spend months in Georgia during his trial, although he is attempting to sever his case from the others’ cases. “That’s the cost of saying ‘not guilty,’” his lawyer, David Shestokas, said at the event.

The lawyer said that the case against Mr. Lee is a violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment, including freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion.

“What’s at stake here is not just Pastor Lee,” Mr. Shestokas said. “It’s an attack on all the rights in the First Amendment of our Constitution.”

Prosecutors said that Mr. Lee, 71, allegedly worked with others to try to pressure Georgia election worker Ruby Freeman and her daughter after President Trump and his allies said they pulled fraudulent ballots from a suitcase during the vote count in Fulton County. Officials have accused Mr. Lee of knocking on Ms. Freeman’s door, causing her to call 911 three times.

Another defendant in the case, Harrison Floyd, who had served as director of Black Voices for Trump, is accused of recruiting Mr. Lee to arrange a meeting with Ms. Freeman and Chicago-based publicist Trevian Kutti. Prosecutors said that Ms. Kutti met with Ms. Freeman at a police precinct, where she brought Mr. Floyd into the conversation on a speakerphone. Prosecutors also alleged the publicist presented herself as someone who could help Ms. Freeman but then pressured her to make statements that she engaged in election fraud.

But Mr. Lee’s lawyer said that the pastor’s actions don’t amount to criminal activity. “You have a pastor being indicted for knocking on a door,” Mr. Shestokas told CBS News earlier this year. “For them to try and tie him to this criminal enterprise is just an incredible, incredible stretch.”

Last week, Mr. Floyd, the former Black Voices for Trump director, requested that government agencies hand over about 145,000 Fulton County absentee ballots from 2020 and all ballot envelopes and applications, according to court papers. His lawyers also want to see the full reports regarding allegations about Ms. Freeman and her daughter.

“If at the time he believed that Trump won and it turns out that we find evidence that Trump won, he may have been justified in what he did,” Floyd attorney Christopher Kachouroff said during a recent hearing.

Other Defendants Enter Pleas

As for Ms. Powell, who made bombastic proclamations about election irregularities during the 2020 election, she was sentenced on Oct. 19 to six years of probation after pleading guilty to conspiring to interfere with the performance of election duties following the 2020 presidential election. She also paid a fine.

Responding to her guilty plea, President Trump wrote on his Truth Social last month that she was “not my attorney and never was,” and “she would have been conflicted” if she were his attorney. In court papers filed earlier this year, Ms. Powell’s attorneys also said she never was officially retained by the Trump 2020 campaign.

Around the same time, Ms. Ellis, the former Trump 2020 attorney, pleaded guilty to one felony count of aiding and abetting false statements and writings. Like the other defendants, she had been facing charges of violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO, and soliciting the violation of oath by a public officer, both felonies.

Another lawyer who was charged, Kenneth Chesebro, pleaded guilty to a felony as jury selection was getting underway in his trial. He pleaded guilty to one felony charge of conspiracy to commit filing false documents in a last-minute deal, with prosecutors agreeing to dismiss the other charges.

Meanwhile, a lower-profile defendant in the case, bail bondsman Scott Graham Hall, pleaded guilty last month to five misdemeanor charges. He was sentenced to five years of probation and agreed to testify in further proceedings.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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