Former President Donald Trump and Attorney Alina Habba at the first tee during day three of the LIV Golf Invitational – Bedminster at Trump National Golf Club on August 13, 2023 in Bedminster, New Jersey.
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
18 people were indicted alongside former President Donald Trump on Monday.
Legal experts told Insider that some of them might flip on Trump and cooperate with the prosecution.
The group is accused of a variety of racketeering, conspiracy, forgery, and false statement charges.
In the latest indictment against former President Donald Trump, 18 other people were named alongside him as co-defendants in charges filed in Georgia that allege the group conspired to overturn the 2020 election.
Legal experts told Insider the large group of named co-defendants, as well as 30 “unnamed co-conspirators” referenced in the indictment, may prove to be an advantage to the prosecution because some of them could feel compelled to flip on Trump and cooperate with the prosecution in exchange for shorter sentences or other favorable outcomes.
“It’s not surprising to see unindicted co-conspirators,” Anna Cominsky, an associate professor of law and the director of the Criminal Defense Clinic at New York Law School, told Insider. “That happens, especially when you have cases with this kind of charge. There are typically many actors involved.”
She said that some unindicted co-conspirators will never be charged “for whatever reason, perhaps there they’re not known. Perhaps the evidence against those individuals isn’t as strong.”
“The other reason why those individuals may not be charged is because they’re cooperating,” Cominsky said. And in this case, “I would anticipate cooperation. And whether that be cooperation before they get charged, or they get charged and then they cooperate —neither of those things would be surprising to me at all.”
The co-defendants include big names like Rudy Giuliani and Mark Meadows, as well as less famous locals such as Scott Hall, a Fulton County Republican poll watcher, and police chaplain Stephen Lee.
Sarah Krissoff, a former federal prosecutor with the Southern District of New York and a current defense attorney with the firm Cozen O’Connor, told Insider “what is interesting here is the statute they’re using to charge the case, and also how many people are charged. That really, I think, opens the door for people to cooperate.”
“To the extent these activities are illegal, there’s a lot of other people who may be willing to turn on the former president and provide information to the government to protect themselves and their families,” Krissoff added. “Ultimately, their own interests are gonna come before the former president’s interests. They have to look out for themselves.”
It’s one thing for a person to receive a grand jury subpoena and understand they’re being investigated, Krissoff said, but the reality of being charged with a crime may make people who haven’t been willing to cooperate change their tune in light of the pending criminal charges.
“I think there’s every incentive for Willis to encourage them to do that, and even pressure them to do that,” Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, told Insider, referring to Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. The benefits for cooperating with the prosecution, he said, are extremely appealing, especially in light of long possible sentences for racketeering and conspiracy charges.
If Trump’s co-defendants turned on him, they may be offered shorter sentences, dropped or reduced charges, and other legal benefits.
“There are all kinds of reasons to do that,” Tobias told Insider. “All kinds of reasons for them to plea. The promise of something very light, especially.”
For now, legal experts are speculating about who might be first to turn, as most see the issue not as a matter of “if” but “when.”
Tristan Snell, the founder and managing partner of Main Street Law, posted on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, that one possible direction to look is former Trump attorney Jenna Ellis.
“Breaking: Trump dumps Jenna Ellis, won’t pay any of her legal fees — because she’s been supportive of DeSantis,” Snell wrote. “Watch Ellis carefully now. When Trump cuts someone off, it’s the tipping point that results in the person flipping on Trump. My bet: Ellis will cooperate.”
Snell did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
For now, Stan Twardy, a lawyer at Day Pitney and former US Attorney for the District of Connecticut, told Insider there are a lot more questions than answers about who among the co-defendants might cooperate — and how.
“Who there might feel that he or she needs to cooperate and cut a plea deal? We’ve read in the papers at least that some of the quote-unquote state electors agreed, for immunity, to testify,” Twardy said. “What might some of these other 18 defendants do, between now and whenever trial might take place, as far as deciding to cooperate with the government?”