Judge issues protective order after videos leaked in Trump indictment

Misty Hampton’s attorney admitted he leaked four plea-bargain videos to a media outlet.
He made the admission during a hearing held by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee.
Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 2:10 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 16, 2023 at 2:02 PM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - As expected, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee issued an order Thursday that protects some evidence in former Donald Trump’s historic racketeering trial in Atlanta from being released.

McAfee’s ruling comes 24 hours after Jonathan Miller, an attorney representing Misty Hampton in the trial, admitted he leaked videos to one national media outlet. Miller made the admission during a Wednesday hearing after Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis filed an emergency motion on Tuesday that requested the court to issue an order protecting some evidence in the case.

“In being transparent with the court, and to make sure that nobody else gets blamed for what happened, and so that I can go to sleep well tonight, Judge, I did release those videos to one outlet,” said Miller over the Zoom call. “And in all candor to the court, I need the court to know that.”

During Wednesday’s hearing, McAfee said he would grant the order despite opposition from numerous media outlets, including Gray Television and Atlanta News First.

“It may be the case, and it’s frequently true in litigation, that both sides are happy to proceed in secrecy, but that is generally not the approved approach of our court system,” said Tom Clyde, an attorney representing various media outlets. “The media and the public and the press have a full on constitutional right to access those materials.”

Willis’ motion came after several national and local media outlets reported on videotaped conversations from Sidney Powell, Jenna Ellis, Scott Hall and Kenneth Chesebro, that, according to CNN, were part of the plea deals they arranged with Willis’ office.

The leaked videos appear to show the nation’s 45th president determined not to leave the White House despite losing the 2020 general election.

McAfee asked why Miller chose to release the videos.

“This is a very public trial,” Miller replied. “We all know that. This allows the DA’s office to set the tone for the entire trial without giving consideration to the other side of the coin. The public has a right to know.”

Jonathan Miller, the attorney representing Misty Hampton in Donald Trump’s Atlanta trial, admitted on Wednesday that he leaked videos to a national news outlet.

“It seems like having open (evidence) files for everyone to start litigating the case before we actually get inside of a courtroom comes with a lot of side effects that I don’t know if we’ve thought through,” McAfee responded.

Hampton was the elections director in Coffee County. She was present in the county elections office on Jan. 7, 2021 when a computer forensics team copied software and data from the county’s election equipment.

Hampton allegedly allowed two other men who had been active in efforts to question the 2020 election results to access the elections office later that month and to spend hours inside with the equipment.

In one of the leaked videos, Ellis reportedly told prosecutors Trump’s former deputy White House chief of staff, Dan Scavino, said the president was not going to leave the White House despite the election’s results.

“And he said to me, you know, in a kind of excited tone, ‘Well, we don’t care, and we’re not going to leave,’” Ellis told prosecutors in the video. “And I said, ‘What do you mean?’

“And he said, ‘Well, the boss,’ meaning President Trump and everyone understood ‘the boss,’ that’s what we all called him, he said, ‘the boss is not going to leave under any circumstance,’” she said, according to the video.

The leaked videos could scare other potential witnesses away from offering testimony or accepting plea deals for their cooperation, similar to Ellis and Powell.

“By this reaching the public, it’ll intimidate other witnesses,” J. Edward Shipp, a metro Atlanta attorney, said. “Intimidating these witnesses to a point where they just say, ‘we’re not going to testify, you can’t protect us, we’re not interested in trying to make a deal with you.’”

“Any purported private conversation is absolutely meaningless,” said Steve Sadow, Trump’s lead Georgia attorney. “The only salient and telling fact is that President Trump left the White House on January 20, 2021 and returned to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida. If this is the nonsense line of inquiry being pursued and this is the type of bogus, ridiculous ‘evidence’ DA Willis intends to rely upon, it is one more reason that this political, travesty of a case must be dismissed.”

McAfee, who is overseeing Trump’s massive indictment, has ordered court records unsealed for the four co-defendants who have reached plea deals.

That means the letters of apology that Powell, Chesebro, Hall and Ellis wrote may soon be available. McAfee issued the ruling in late October.

Hall was the first co-defendant to reach a plea deal with Willis. Hall has received 12 months of probation for each count for a total of five years probation and agreed to perform 200 hours of community service, pay a $5,000 fine, write a letter of apology and testify in upcoming court proceedings, among other conditions.

Then came Powell, who agreed to six years probation, pay a $6,000 fine and a $2,700 restitution, write a letter of apology, an agreement to testify against other co-defendants and an agreement that she cannot interact with any witnesses, co-defendants or members of the media.

Next was Chesebro, who pleaded guilty to a felony charge of filing false documents as it related to Georgia’s 2020 presidential election. He received five years’ probation, a $5,000 fine and agreed to write an apology letter and perform 100 hours of community service.

Ellis reached an agreement days later. She was sentenced to five years of probation along with a $5,000 fine, 100 hours of community service, to writing an apology letter and testify in future trials.

Trump is facing 91 felony counts in four criminal cases in Washington, New York, Florida and Georgia and could potentially be looking at years in prison if convicted.

Trump is charged alongside others — including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows — with violating the state’s anti-racketeering law by scheming to illegally overturn his 2020 election loss.

The indictment, handed up in August, accuses Trump and his allies of suggesting Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, could find enough votes for him to win the battleground state; harassing an election worker who faced false claims of fraud; and attempting to persuade Georgia lawmakers to ignore the will of voters and appoint a new slate of Electoral College electors favorable to Trump

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