Hall played a part in various post-election events, and he’s taken a plea deal. He will testify in the Georgia 2020 election trials.
ATLANTA — Atlanta-area bail bondsman Scott Hall pleaded guilty one week ago for his part in the 2021 copying of sensitive election software in south Georgia.
His ties extend beyond tiny Coffee County and touch various corners of the post-election plots that led to criminal charges against former President Donald Trump and 17 others, court documents and other material obtained by 11Alive shows.
Hall, the first defendant in the case to take a deal, pleaded to five misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with performance of election duties. He was one of several people who took part in what state officials called the “unauthorized access to the equipment that former Coffee County election officials allowed in violation of Georgia law.”
His testimony could feature prominently in the trial of attorney Sidney Powell set for later this month and in the cases of other codefendants. Court records obtained by 11Alive outline Hall’s involvement in the events of Jan. 7, 2021. The indictment and other documents show Hall had relationships with others involved in the case and those in the orbit of the former president.
‘Every freaking ballot’
The breaches and Hall’s role in them first came to public light after he was heard boasting about scanning “every freaking ballot” in the audio of a phone call released in early 2022. Marilyn Marks, the executive director of the Coalition of Good Governance, was on the other end of the line recording it.
The nonprofit, dedicated to election transparency and security activism, has been part of a yearslong lawsuit against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger over the state’s electronic voting system. Text messages, depositions and other materials obtained as part of the lawsuit provide further details about the breaches in Coffee County outlined below.
Materials from the lawsuit have been reviewed by Fulton prosecutors and used in the Trump case already. Part of former Coffee County GOP chair Cathleen Latham’s racketeering charge includes allegations that she lied in her civil lawsuit deposition.
A source with knowledge of the matter confirmed defense attorneys received the documents described below as part of discovery in the Trump case.
“Whether or not Hall played a key operative role in the moment is not as important as his depth and breadth of knowledge and relationships as to who was involved in the planning and execution of the numerous plots and schemes to overturn the election,” Marks told 11Alive. “Prosecutors can put together deep and compelling evidence with Hall’s testimony and documents from his wide-ranging communications and knowledge.”
It’s unclear when Hall first learned of the plan to access Coffee County’s voting machines.
The indictment alleges that Latham called Scott Hall on Jan. 6, 2021, and Hall called back several hours later.
During one of the calls, they discussed Hall’s “request to assist with the unlawful breach” of election equipment. Latham testified in the civil lawsuit that she and Hall first spoke following her appearance at a Dec. 30, 2020, Georgia Senate subcommittee meeting. Latham said they didn’t discuss getting into the elections office during that first conversation.
Two Coffee County election officials were texting each other about Hall’s request.
Election supervisor Misty Hampton texted then-Coffee County election board member Eric Cheney about Hall. Hampton was indicted for her alleged role in the copying, and Fulton prosecutors have identified Cheney as a witness for the state, according to documents reviewed by 11Alive.
“Scott Hall is on the phone with Cathy about wanting to come scan our ballots from the general election like we talked about the other day,” Hampton texted Cheney on Jan. 6. “I am going to call you in a few.”
Latham then texted Hall’s email address to Hampton. Later that evening, Hall was added to a “Coffee_County_Forensics” group on Signal, an encrypted messaging service.
According to screenshots reviewed by 11Alive, Hall was added to the group by former National Security Agency employee Jim Penrose.
The group included members from Atlanta-based forensic data firm SullivanStrickler and Charles Bundren, an attorney who assisted former Sen. David Perdue‘s attempts to inspect absentee ballots in Fulton County and was involved in other post-2020 election efforts.
Paul Maggio, the Chief Operating Officer of SullivanStrickler, declined to comment when asked about the messages by an 11Alive reporter. Maggio is identified by title but is not named in the Fulton indictment. Atlanta prosecutors previously identified him and the Atlanta business as witnesses in the upcoming trials.
Just after 1 a.m. on Jan. 7, Hall provided the group with contacts for Hampton and Latham. The SullivanStrickler group drove down early that morning. Hall flew in a small plane from Dekalb-Peachtree Airport to the Douglas Municipal Airport with data analyst Alex Cruce.
Cruce confirmed that he flew with Hall to Coffee County in a deposition for the civil lawsuit. However, Fulton prosecutors refer to Cruce as “unindicted co-conspirator Individual 24” in the indictment.
Maggio sent an email to Powell at 10:31 a.m. that morning and attached a roughly $26,000 invoice for the work.
“Per Jim Penrose’s request, we are on our way to Coffee County Georgia to collect what we can from the Election / Voting machines and systems,” a portion of the email reads.
Hall landed in Coffee County before the SullivanStrickler group arrived. Messages in the group match with the description of events laid out by prosecutors in the indictment.
“20 minutes out,” Maggio said. “Our vehicle is full. Cathy sent someone to pick you up.”
The indictment alleges that Latham sent a text message to “the Chief Operations Officer of Sullivan Strickler LLC” with the airport’s address so Hall could be retrieved. Hall arrived at the office around 11:50 a.m. with Cruce.
The SullivanStrickler team then spent the next seven hours inside the election office working, and Hall was there for much of the day overseeing collection, according to court records.
After getting a message in the chat that the copying was complete, Hall responded at 8:05 p.m. with two emojis: prayer hands and an American flag.
Hall’s potential role in the trials
There’s finger-pointing over Powell’s role in the Coffee County breaches, and Hall may help clear things up.
Her alleged role in the scheme was the primary focus of a hearing Thursday in Fulton County Superior Court.
Fulton prosecutors contend that the Jan. 7 breach was done under a contract between Powell’s Defending the Republic group and SullivanStrickler.
Powell attorney Brian Rafferty’s chief arguments during the court hearing were that Powell had no role in the plot, and Coffee County officials gave approval for the work. The document Rafferty identified as the invitation letter to copy data is a response to an open records request.
According to a GBI investigative summary included in one of Powell’s court filings, the request came from Atlanta-based attorney Preston Haliburton, who was aligned with Rudy Giuliani’s legal team. Haliburton sought copies of the county’s counted and discarded ballots as well as “the originals of the spoiled absentee ballots.”
Texts show that Cheney communicated with Hampton about sending a “letter,” and he provided Hampton with Haliburton’s email address. Hampton then provided the response to Haliburton.
“We have received your open records request, and I will be speaking with my board, and per Georgia Law I do not see any problem assisting you with anything y’all need accordance to Georgia Law,” Hampton said. “Y’all are welcome in our office any time. Coffee County Board of Elections and Registration and myself are willing to work with anyone with accordance to the Georgia Law.”
Rafferty alleges that this should exonerate Powell.
“The permission provided by Coffee County to investigate the machines defeats the State’s allegations on all counts as to Ms. Powell. Authorization was provided and there was no crime,” Rafferty said.
Mentions of the “written invitation” appear in text messages previously reviewed by 11Alive, but this is the first time the alleged letter has surfaced. Attorneys representing Coffee County told 11Alive this week they found no documents matching the document referenced by Rafferty.
Aside from arguing the access was given, Rafferty points to other items that allegedly prove Powell wasn’t involved. The contract prosecutors refer to in the indictment didn’t mention Georgia. He alleges that Penrose, the former NSA employee, is the one who electronically signed Powell’s name to the contract.
Prosecutors rejected Rafferty’s claims during Thursday’s hearing.
“We believe she was involved,” said Deputy District Attorney Will Wooten. “We don’t believe there was any letter that granted any kind of lawful authorization.”
The Georgia Secretary of State and testimony from several key Coffee County figures in the civil lawsuit also offer a more complicated picture than Powell paints, suggesting that local officials couldn’t have lawfully approved the copying.
Hampton testified in late 2022 that Cheney gave the authority for the copying. Cheney pleaded the fifth in his testimony when asked if he authorized the copying, according to court records.
Wendell Stone, a Coffee County Board of Elections representative, testified last year that Cheney lacked the authority to approve the copying. Decisions required a quorum of the board, and the board did not know the Jan. 7 plans, Stone said.
Stone told 11Alive earlier this week that he has been subpoenaed ahead of Powell’s trial.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee shot down Powell’s attempt to have her charges dismissed, but she has several other motions pending before the court ahead of the Oct. 23 trial.
It’s unclear how much Hall knows about the higher-level planning of the breach.
However, testimony from the bail bondsman, Cheney, and SullivanStrickler could shed further light on the activities of Powell, Penrose, Haliburton, and others concerning the breaches that took place throughout January 2021.
Cheney’s testimony could address the alleged invitation letter. Both Hall and SullivanStrickler communicated with Penrose, and Hall spoke with Coffee County officials. A SullivanStrickler employee previously testified in the lawsuit that Powell “paid the bills” and was their “customer.”
A portion of Hall’s plea deal also requires him to provide prosecutors with access to other evidence and documents, including “access to any investigators involved in the case, including Preston Haliburton.”
Haliburton is not facing criminal charges in Georgia. Beyond his ties to Coffee County, he represented Giuliani and Latham during the Dec. 30 Georgia Senate subcommittee meeting over alleged election fraud.
Several defendants, including Giuliani and attorney Bob Cheeley, were charged with making false statements at this hearing.
The Washington Post previously reported that Haliburton stayed at the Willard Hotel, a command center for Trump allies ahead of Jan. 6. William Ligon, a former Georgia state Senator who chaired the Dec. 30 hearing, also stayed at the hotel. Their rooms were paid for by Bernie Kerik, a former New York City Police Commissioner and Giuliani ally. Kerik has been subpoenaed by Fulton prosecutors in this case.
Hall’s ties to other codefendants
Hall’s alleged involvement following the 2020 election reaches beyond the small south Georgia county. This includes personal relationships with those close to the former president.
Several media outlets, including CNN, have reported that Hall is related to David Bossie, chairman of the conservative group Citizens United who briefly led the former president’s post-election legal challenges. Bossie’s name appears in the Fulton indictment.
In late November 2020, David Shafer introduced Hall to a group of individuals Robert Sinners, a current spokesperson for the Georgia Secretary of State’s office who then worked for Trump’s campaign. In the email, Shafer said Hall was “looking into the election” on behalf of the former president at Bossie’s request.
This is described in Act 4 in the indictment, though Sinners is referred to as “unindicted co-conspirator Individual 4” by Fulton prosecutors. Sinners has since disavowed the post-2020 election activities that took place in Georgia.
Hall may also know about the letter former Justice Department official Jeffery Clark wanted to send that alleged the agency “identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple States, including the State of Georgia.”
According to the indictment, Hall called Clark on Jan. 2, and the pair spoke for 63 minutes.
On the same day, Clark tried to get acting U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and Acting United States Deputy Attorney Richard Donoghue to send the letters to several Georgia officials, including Gov. Brian Kemp.
In testimony before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in 2021, Donoghue said Clark tried to use a conversation he had with “some individual from Georgia” as justification for sending the letter. That person’s name is not mentioned in transcript of the testimony but is described by Donoghue as a bail bondsman.
The indictment alleges Hall also placed calls to two other codefendants, Cheeley and Trevian Kutti. It’s unclear what the three discussed on Jan. 5, 2021.
It came one day after Kutti and other codefendants met with Fulton County election worker Ruby Freeman at a Cobb County police precient to get her to falsely admit to committing election fraud. Kutti was indicted as part of the pressure campaign against Freeman.