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Sidney Powell’s guilty plea and the case for the rule of law

Guest Opinion//October 20, 2023//

I earned my law degree driven by a passion for the subject, not with the intention of practicing in the courtroom. I regret not being present this week to witness the unfolding trial of Sidney Powell. In a surprising turn of events, Powell, the former attorney for Donald Trump, pleaded guilty in the Georgia election subversion case just one day before her trial was scheduled to commence. This marks a significant step in the pursuit of justice for those who have eroded the integrity of our democratic processes.

Powell has now acknowledged her role in the January 2021 breach of election systems in rural Coffee County, Georgia, a critical move towards accountability and transparency amidst the backdrop of election denial and conspiracy theories that have clouded the post-2020 election period. Her guilty plea implicates her in the breach of election systems, where a group of Trump supporters, aided by local GOP officials, accessed and copied information from the county’s election systems in an effort to substantiate claims of election fraud. The recommendations from Fulton County prosecutors, which include a six-year probationary sentence, her obligation to testify at future trials, writing an apology letter to the citizens of Georgia, paying restitution and fines and surrendering documents, signify a significant step in ensuring that those involved in election subversion face the consequences of their actions.

Conor O’Callaghan

Sidney Powell’s legal background and close ties to former President Donald Trump lend substantial significance to this development. Her active role in promoting conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, combined with her association with the Trump legal team, underscores the gravity of her actions. Notably, in other instances, she has been labeled as an unindicted co-conspirator, specifically in the federal election subversion case filed against Trump by special counsel Jack Smith. This ongoing investigation continues to scrutinize Powell, as reported by CNN. It’s important to note that she has not yet faced charges in that particular case.

The whole “unindicted co-conspirator” label catches my attention. I’ve been there myself, thanks to a case tied to the early part of my career at Nomura Securities. Before you clutch your pearls, my similarities with Powell end there. I was simply an employee of the firm, a potential witness who cooperated fully, never signed any DOJ or SEC forms or agreements of any kind, and rightly managed to keep my job at the firm even as others were let go. In the Nomura case, three of my former colleagues got tangled up in fraud charges related to some questionable trading practices. The allegations centered on their involvement in activities that misrepresented purchase and sale prices. The prosecution argued that some clients were somehow convinced to pay more based on inaccurate information. In the end, out of a total of 27 charges, with nine piled on each of the three defendants, only one trader ended up convicted on a single count and served no jail time. Others were charged by the SEC, yet aside from a couple settlements, none of those cases stuck either. Quite the legal rollercoaster, I must say. I remained at the firm for many years after these events and was eventually promoted to Managing Director, but the whole episode was a dark time for all involved, including those of us who were quite literally “unindicted.”

In contrast to my experience as a colleague of those charged, where I was not accused of any wrongdoing and cooperated fully with all internal and external investigations, Sidney Powell’s situation is fundamentally different. She deliberately participated in what has come to be known as the “big lie,” making her a central figure in this troubling chapter of American history. Powell’s admission reveals that her actions were not mere errors in judgment, but a deliberate attempt to tamper with electronic ballot markers and tabulating machines, and to appropriate information and data owned by Dominion Voting Systems Corporation. She even engaged a data forensics firm to unlawfully access government computers, all while knowing her examination of personal voter data was unauthorized. Her claim that she was not the mastermind behind the Coffee County breach is contradicted by her own admission.

This development sends a clear message that those who undermine our elections and propagate false narratives about electoral fraud will be held accountable. Powell’s commitment to testify for the prosecution represents a turning point in this complex legal case, indicating that her testimony will be critical in establishing the truth and holding other defendants accountable for their actions.

As we reflect on this significant development, it is vital to remember that the pursuit of justice in cases of election subversion is an ongoing process. Sidney Powell still faces numerous legal challenges in other cases. In addition to her unindicted co-conspirator case, she is also entangled in defamation lawsuits filed by Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic, underscoring the far-reaching consequences of her actions.

It is important to note that not all unindicted co-conspirators are equal. This term has faced criticism for bypassing due process, and I find myself in good company with others in my race who have also avoided indictment despite arguably more significant involvement in their cases than I had in mine. Lawsuits can become a part of life, especially as one achieves more success. Nearly every candidate in this primary has been involved in litigation of some kind. However, what’s not normal is subverting the will of the American people.

In an era where the integrity of our elections is paramount to our democratic system, Sidney Powell’s guilty plea serves as a powerful reminder that election deniers and those engaged in election subversion must face justice. This case sets a precedent for accountability and transparency in the face of baseless conspiracy theories and debunks the notion that election fraud was widespread in the 2020 election. The road to justice may be long and challenging, but it is crucial to ensure the preservation of our democratic institutions and the protection of our electoral processes.

Conor O’Callaghan is a financial executive and Democratic candidate for Congressional District 1.

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