One of the 19 people charged in the Georgia election interference case has pleaded guilty.
Former Republican bail bondsman Scott Hall, one of the 19 people charged alongside Donald Trump for conspiring to overturn the 2020 election results in the state of Georgia, entered into a plea agreement on Friday, becoming the first defendant to plead guilty in the sprawling criminal case.
A live video of the court proceeding showed Hall pleading guilty to five counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with the performance of election duties, a misdemeanor charge.
Hall was sentenced to five years’ probation, a $5,000 fine, 200 hours of community service, and to write an apology letter to the state.
This is a relatively light sentence and there are two possible reasons for that. One is that he is a minor figure in the whole operation. The other is that he has agreed to cooperate with the prosecution in return for more lenient treatment. His testimony is thought likely to cause the most harm to Sydney Powell, whose trial is due to start on October 27.
So we now have a real-life, enlarged version of the classic Prisoner’s Dilemma situation. In that problem, two prisoners have to make a decision. If they stick together and do not cooperate with the prosecutors, they increase their chances of escaping punishment altogether by being found not guilty. But if they are found guilty, they will get stiff sentences. On the other hand, if one prisoner cooperates with the prosecutors and betrays the other prisoner, that prisoner can get a light sentence, while the other prisoner gets a heavy sentence.
In this case, because of the large number of defendants, all the other defendants now have to start making more complex calculations. The earlier they plead guilty and cooperate with prosecutors, the more likely they are to get light sentences as part of a plea deal. As time goes by, the information that any individual can provide gets less valuable because prosecutors would have got most of what they need from the ones who made deals earlier. So each person has to guess whether their co-defendants will cooperate with the other defendants by staying silent and risking stiff sentences if found guilty or betray them by spilling the beans to prosecutors in return for a lighter sentence.