Georgia appeals court denies GOP state election chief’s bid to ban early voting the Saturday after Thanksgiving

There will be early voting sites open in several Georgia counties on Saturday Nov. 26 for the Georgia U.S. Senate runoff between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Senate hopeful Herschel Walker. In two court rulings, the secretary of state’s office was unsuccessful in its attempt to prevent voters from voting on Saturday since it falls within a day of a state holiday. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

Georgia’s Court of Appeals has rejected Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s attempt to keep Georgians from voting in the U.S. Senate runoff on the Saturday after Thanksgiving,

On Monday evening the appeals court blocked the state’s emergency motion to nullify a Fulton County judge’s order giving Georgia counties the option to open early voting sites on Saturday, Nov. 26, which falls two days after Thanksgiving and one day after a state holiday previously named in honor of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Attorney General Chris Carr, a Republican, filed the appeal on behalf of the secretary of state claiming that state law prohibits advanced voting on Saturdays that fall within a day after a state holiday.

The secretary of state’s spokesman said after Monday’s appeals court ruling Saturday voting can go forward without further challenge.

“The court has worked its will,” spokesman Mike Hassinger said in a statement. “We believe this is something the General Assembly should clarify to avoid confusion in the future. I hope that Georgia election workers will be able to enjoy a somewhat restful day despite this decision.”

After Monday’s ruling, voters in a few of the state’s most heavily populated counties will be able to vote in the runoff election between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and GOP challenger Herschel Walker. Read more

Former Trump attorney worked with Atlanta tech firm to hack Coffee County, Georgia voting system

Sidney Powell, who is a former member of President Donald Trump’s legal team, would embark on a public campaign of unleashing unfounded accusations that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

An attorney connected to former President Donald Trump coordinated with experts from an Atlanta-based computer firm to hack into Coffee County’s voting system in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, according to records obtained in a federal lawsuit challenging the security of Georgia’s voting system.

The subpoenaed documents indicate that former Trump attorney Sidney Powell and other Trump affiliated lawyers solicited the help of Atlanta-based forensic data firm SullivanStrickler to breach election systems in Georgia, Nevada, and Michigan, which are battleground states where Democrat Joe Biden defeated Trump in the November 2020 election.

Those three states became the targets of Trump and other election deniers who lodged unfounded conspiracy theories of a stolen election that included accusations of rigged electronic voting machines.

The Washington Post first reported the confirmed breaches on Monday based on newly filed emails and other court records subpoenaed from SullivanStrickler by election security advocates seeking to replace Georgia’s Dominion Voting Systems’ electronic ballot marking devices with paper ballots, which they argue are more secure.

In an April 2021 email, former NSA official, Jim Penrose, who was employed by Powell, requested that SullivanStrickler COO Paul Maggio mail forensic material taken from the Coffee County voting machines during a trip to the county’s election office.

An invoice connects SullivanStrickler experts to Powell, who led an unsuccessful effort to overturn the presidential election. Powell is battling a defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion and faces potential disbarment.

Maggio’s court documents show a list of Coffee County hard drive contents, ranging from runoff ballot images to data from the election server to reports from the general election.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Georgia have said that the breach further illustrates serious vulnerabilities that have also been detailed in a report by an expert computer science witness. Read more

Giuliani, Graham striking out in bids to avoid date with Georgia grand jury

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who is now the target of a criminal investigation into the crusade to overturn the 2020 election to keep Trump in power, has been ordered to testify before a Fulton County, Georgia special grand jury on Wednesday.

A lawyer for Giuliani confirmed on Monday that a prosecutor from the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office said Giuliani is indeed a target of the extensive investigation into election interference, two days before prosecutors are expected to grill him about his possible involvement in spreading unfounded theories about fraudulent absentee ballots, setting up fake electors and for other information regarding the effort to prevent Georgia’s 2020 presidential election winner Joe Biden from succeeding the Republican president.

The former New York City mayor will become the most prominent Trump ally to testify before the special grand jury that’s so far heard from dozens of witnesses. The panel will recommend whether Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis should pursue criminal charges against Giuliani or other players who tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election. She has said that it appears the Trump campaign coordinated an attempt to disrupt the post-election process in battleground states, which culminated in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

Also on Monday, another high-profile witness, Republican South Carolina U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, was ordered to appear before the Fulton grand jury on Aug. 23 after a federal judge rejected the senator’s arguments that he was legally protected because he was acting within his legislative authority when he called Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger about recalculating absentee votes to help Trump claim victory.

In an emergency motion last week, Giuliani claimed he was unable to fly to Atlanta because of a medical condition, but a judge ordered him to comply.

According to Anthony Michael Kreis, a constitutional law professor at Georgia State University, Monday’s development isn’t a surprise as signs are pointing to Trump’s former personal and campaign lawyer being included in a broader conspiracy case.

Giuliani is likely to plead Fifth Amendment protections to avoid self-incrimination on Wednesday, Kreis added.

Following the 2020 election, Giuliani fervently promoted allegations of widespread voter fraud in Georgia, including at a state Senate hearing where he claimed that a video showed Fulton election workers handling fake absentee ballots. He encouraged Republican lawmakers to appoint illegitimate electors to cast votes for Trump.

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) – Photo: Senate.gov

“In one sense you wouldn’t expect (Willis) to treat Giuliani differently than the fake electors, but on the other hand there isn’t one overtly criminal act he committed,” Kreis said. “It’s not like he signed an official document, there’s not a recording like Trump making the request before the secretary of state, and Giuliani wasn’t under oath when he appeared before the General Assembly legislative committee.”

On Monday, a federal judge ruled Graham must comply since he will answer questions not covered by the law protecting legislators while performing their regular duties.

Graham is expected to make a final appeal in federal court.

“You wouldn’t want to have an investigation inquiring into a legislator’s vote or what they were thinking in a legislative proceeding,” Kreis said.

Among those who have testified in the grand jury probe into interference after Georgia’s 2020 presidential election are Republicans Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, who drew Trump’s ire for not preventing the state from certifying Biden’s win.

Meanwhile, the majority of the 16 people who submitted false elector documents and Georgia GOP Congressman Jody Hice are among those still fighting Fulton subpoenas.

Stanley Dunlap is a reporter for the Georgia Recorder, which first published this report.

Ahmaud Arbery’s murderers found guilty of federal hate crimes charges

Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael, and Willam “Roddie” Bryan will be sentenced on federal hate crime charges after a federal jury in Glynn County on Tuesday found them guilty of racially targeting Ahmaud Arbery in his murder on Feb. 23, 2020. AP pool photos from Glynn County state trial

A federal jury in Glynn County, Georgia Tuesday found three white men guilty of race-based hate crimes in the 2020 murder of Ahmaud Arbery after chasing him and gunning him down in a Brunswick-area neighborhood.

The hate crimes verdicts against father and son Greg and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan caps off a week of testimony where prosecutors argued that the defendants’ history of using racial slurs against Black people in text messages and conversations factored into their decision to pursue the 25-year-old, unarmed Arbery.

Just one day before the two-year anniversary of Arbery’s murder on Feb. 23, 2020, a jury of eight white people, three Black people, and one Hispanic person rendered the guilty verdicts after a few hours of deliberation.

The three defendants were convicted of violating Arbery’s civil rights on counts of attempted kidnapping and interference with rights and using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during the relation of a violent crime.

A sentencing decision is set to be made after the pre-sentencing interview reports are complete. The separate federal penalties will now be imposed on the men who were also convicted of murder in November by a Glynn County jury in state court.

The McMichaels were sentenced to life in the state case while Bryan has a chance of parole.

On Feb. 23, 2020, the McMichaels grabbed their firearms and got into a pickup truck to chase Arbery, who they say they suspected of committing burglaries in their Satilla Shores neighborhood.

Investigators, however, testified that Arbery did not break any laws when he entered a home that was under construction in Satilla Shores, noting that while white people on surveillance video were doing the same thing, the McMichaels were spurred to vigilantism by Arbery’s presence.

The final moments of Arbery’s life came as he tried to fight off Travis McMichael, a shotgun-wielding man who fired three shots, after Arbery tried to run away from the McMichaels and Bryan for five minutes.

Bryan, who authorities say attempted to run Arbery into a ditch multiple times after joining in the pursuit in his black pickup truck, recorded the viral video that spurred widespread outrage and eventually the arrests of the three men.

Stanley Dunlap is a reporter for the Georgia Recorder, which first published this report.

Update from Georgia murder trial: Prosecutor says Arbery targeted for being ‘Black man running down the street’

Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski presents a closing argument to the jury during the trial of Travis McMichael, his father, Gregory McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan, at the Glynn County Courthouse, Monday, Nov. 22, 2021, in Brunswick, Ga. The three men charged with the February 2020 slaying of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton, Pool)

The lead prosecutor in Monday’s closing arguments accused the three white defendants of chasing Ahmaud Arbery because he was Black, a decision that led to his shooting death on a Brunswick-area street Sunday afternoon in 2020.

The Glynn County murder trial is set to resume Tuesday with the state’s prosecutors expected to present a two-hour rebuttal following a day where the attorneys for father and son Greg and Travis McMichaels repeated claims of self-defense while making a lawful citizen’s arrest. Meanwhile, their neighbor, William “Roddie” Bryan’s attorney, distanced Bryan from the McMichaels’ decisions to bring their guns with them as they chased Arbery in their pickup trucks.

In her closing statement, Cobb County senior assistant district attorney Linda Dunikoski pressed that Arbery’s race as a factor for the defendants after spotting a “Black man running down the street” of the Brunswick neighborhood on Feb. 23, 2020.

Until Monday, references to the racial tensions that pervade the case were largely kept out of the courtroom save for requests by Bryan’s attorney to bar Black pastors from comforting the Arbery family in the courtroom.

Travis McMichael testified last week that a neighbor tipped his father off about seeing Arbery in the Satilla Shores neighborhood after Arbery had previously been on a home construction site several times. The McMichaels say the neighborhood had been on edge about property crimes going back to 2019.

Dunikoski countered that after five minutes of being chased and cornered by the McMichaels and Bryan, Arbery’s only offenses that caused his pursuit were being a “looky-loo” several times at the home that was under construction and being Black.

McMichaels and Bryan reacted based on speculation instead of immediate knowledge that Arbery committed a crime that might have justified an attempted citizen’s arrest.

“They shot and killed him, not because he was a threat to them, but because he wouldn’t stop and talk to them,” she said.

Jason Sheffield, Travis McMichaels’ attorney, denied that Arbery was targeted due to his race. He also referred to the McMichaels questioning a homeless white man about whether he was involved in burglaries within the subdivision.

Defense attorneys argued Monday that enough evidence existed to suggest that Arbery was not just trespassing at the construction site on neighbor Larry English’s property, but could reasonably be suspected of burglary.

Arbery was not linked to any property crime in the neighborhood. Read more