Criminal Justice

After once-liberal lawyer pleads guilty in Trump RICO case, his law prof mentor offers explanation

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AP Kenneth Chesebro October 2023_800px

Lawyer Kenneth Chesebro sits with his attorney Manny Arora during a hearing in which Chesebro accepted a plea deal from Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis in front of Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee at the Fulton County Courthouse on Oct. 20 in Atlanta. Photo by Alyssa Pointer via the Associated Press.

After lawyer Kenneth Chesebro pleaded guilty in the Georgia election-interference case Friday, a famous liberal law professor who mentored him grappled with the reason for his mentee’s ideological turnaround.

Laurence Tribe, a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, told the New York Times that he thinks that Chesebro “wanted to be close to the action.”

Chesebro had helped Tribe represent former Vice President Al Gore in the case that ended Florida’s election recount, which gave an election victory to former President George W. Bush in 2000.

“I was representing a vice president who might become president,” Tribe told the New York Times. Chesebro “saw me as having access to power. When the world turned and Donald Trump became president, I stopped hearing from him.”

After his graduation from Harvard Law, Chesebro clerked for a federal judge who refused to stop publication of the Pentagon Papers and ruled that former President Richard Nixon’s Watergate tapes were in the public domain, according to the New York Times. Even after law school, Chesebro sometimes did work for Tribe.

Others trying to explain Chesebro’s political change point to a Bitcoin investment said to have yielded several million dollars in profits. Afterward, he began contributing to Republicans, and he worked on legal briefs seeking to overturn the 2020 election.

Chesebro, 62, pleaded guilty Friday to a single felony charge of conspiracy to file false documents, report the Washington Post, Bloomberg Law, Reuters and another story by the New York Times.

He agreed to a sentence of probation for up to five years, to pay $6,000 in a fine and restitution, to provide community service, and to testify against other co-defendants.

Chesebro had been accused of writing memos supporting the use of fake electors who would declare former President Donald Trump the winner of the 2020 election. Chesebro has contended that he was merely offering advice on legal options in an unsettled area of law.

The guilty plea allows prosecutors to avoid a trial that could have given Trump and 15 other remaining defendants a preview of their case, according to a post at the MaddowBlog for MSNBC. The blog post by legal analyst Lisa Rubin also said another defendant, former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows, is seeking to move his case to federal court, leading to uncertainty about the proper place for trial.

In addition, Chesebro worked with many of the RICO case defendants, and he could be a valuable witness, the blog post said.

A lawyer for Chesebro, Scott R. Grubman, told the New York Times that his client is “glad to be able to move on with his life and avoid spending even a minute in jail.” He also noted that Chesebro did not plead guilty to racketeering charges.

Chesebro’s guilty plea followed a plea by another lawyer, Sidney Powell. She pleaded guilty Thursday to six misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with performance of election duties.

See also:

“These lawyers are charged along with Trump in Georgia RICO indictment; is ‘partisan shift’ to blame?”

“Lawyer who claimed Trump ‘won in a landslide’ pleads guilty in Georgia RICO case

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