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11 charged in AZ fake elector case plead not guilty

Nearly a dozen individuals pleaded not guilty Tuesday morning to charges that they attempted to undermine President Joe Biden’s electoral victory over then-President Donald Trump in 2020.

A grand jury indicted 18 participants in the so-called fake elector plot, alleging they conspired to deliver Arizona’s 11 electoral votes to Trump, even though he lost the state’s popular vote to Biden. Eleven of those charged signed fraudulent documents sent to Washington claiming Trump won Arizona.

Eleven of those indicted individuals appeared in Maricopa County Superior Court on Tuesday, including Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Christina Bobb, state Sen. Anthony Kern, and former Arizona Republican Party chair Kelli Ward.

Other individuals who pleaded not guilty on May 21 include:

  • Tyler Bowyer, RNC national committeeman and COO for Turning Point Action
  • Gregory Saftsten, former Republican Party of Arizona executive director
  • Nancy Cottle, former Republican Party of Arizona executive committee member
  • Robert Montgomery, former Cochise County Republican Committee chairman
  • Samuel Moorhead, former Gila County Republican Committee second vice chair
  • Lorraine Pelegrino, former Ahwatukee Republican Women president
  • Michael Ward, Kelli Ward’s husband

Trump attorney John Eastman pleaded not guilty in an earlier court appearance on May 17.

The remaining defendants — including Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, state Sen. Jake Hoffman, former U.S. Senate candidate Jim Lamon and Trump attorney Jenna Ellis —  are scheduled to appear in court next month.

Brad Miller, an attorney representing the Wards, said they had no regrets about signing the inauthentic elector form that claimed Trump won Arizona — an activity the so-called fake electors recorded and posted on social media.

“We certainly don’t have any regrets for anybody exercising their right of Freedom of Speech; their right to ask accountability of their government officials,” Miller said.   

Giuliani, who appeared via telephone, alleged the case was nothing more than a politically-motivated attempt to damage Trump, who is again running against Biden in the 2024 presidential election.

“I do consider this indictment a complete embarrassment to the American legal system,” Giuliani told the court.

But Nicholas Klingerman, a prosecutor with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, said that was not the case.

“It’s absolutely not politically motivated,” Klingerman said. “This case went before an independent grand jury, who chose to issue indictments.” 

He also denied Miller’s claim that the Attorney General’s Office has failed to define what crimes the defendants allegedly committed, pointing to those grand jury indictments charging all defendants with conspiracy, fraud and forgery.

All defendants were released without bond pending trial, except Giuliani. 

Klingerman asked the judge to require the former New York Mayor to post a $10,000 cash bond due to Giuliani’s alleged efforts to evade agents with the Attorney General’s Office who attempted to serve him with a subpoena after the indictments were handed down in April.

Klingerman said agents made multiple attempts to contact Giuliani in person, by mail and by phone over the course of several weeks. He also claimed Giuliani was well aware that the agents were trying to get in contact with him, citing media appearances and social media posts by Giuliani referencing the case.

“Rudy Giuliani has made numerous statements over the past month discussing the indictment, his co-defendants and, quite frankly, mocking the justice system in Arizona,” Klingerman said.

Klingerman showed the judge a social media post from Giuliani’s account on X that was posted shortly before agents eventually served him court documents on May 17 at his 80th birthday party.

Giuliani denied Klingerman’s allegations, saying he has openly disclosed his location in media appearances.

“So I haven’t been hiding from anyone,” he said.

Commissioner Shellie Smith, the judicial officer overseeing the case, modified the prosecution’s request. She required Giuliani to appear in Arizona within 30 days and post a $10,000 secured appearance bond rather than a cash bond.

The secured appearance bond allows Giuliani to post non-cash collateral to secure his bond, Klingerman said. 

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Wayne Schutsky is a broadcast field correspondent covering Arizona politics on KJZZ. He has over a decade of experience as a journalist reporting on local communities in Arizona and the state Capitol.