Lone Georgia state lawmaker who faces Fulton charges claims federal role precludes county prosecution

Scales of Justice with the word justice over it.

by Jill Nolin, Georgia Recorder [This article first appeared in the Georgia Recorder, republished with permission]

August 25, 2023

This story was updated at 8:40 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 27, 2023. 

State Sen. Shawn Still, who was one of the false electors in 2020, is trying to have his case moved to federal court.

The Norcross Republican faces seven counts, including racketeering, impersonating a public officer, forgery, and making false statements and writings. He was booked early Friday morning at the Fulton County Jail and released on a $10,000 bond. 

Still is one of 19 defendants who were indicted last week in the Fulton County election interference case. 

Still’s attorney, Thomas Bever, argued in a court filing Thursday that a presidential elector is a federal role and that Still was acting as a “contingent United States presidential elector” at the Dec. 14 meeting at the Georgia Capitol.

These GOP “alternate” electors cast ballots that day for then-President Donald Trump, who lost in Georgia by nearly 12,000 votes. They met in a conference room at the Capitol even as the state’s official electors convened in the Senate chamber to cast 16 electoral ballots for now-President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. 

“In that role, Mr. Still was, or was acting under, an officer of the United States,” Bever wrote in the court document filed in the Atlanta-based U.S. District for the Northern District of Georgia.  

Still had not yet been elected to the state Senate when he served as secretary of the fake elector meeting in 2020. The owner of Atlanta-area pool construction and rafting businesses would be elected to the Senate two years later with about 57% of the vote in a district that sits in the north Atlanta suburbs.

As an indicted lawmaker, he now faces the possibility of suspension, Georgia Public Broadcasting explains. Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican who did not go long with efforts to reverse Trump’s election defeat in 2020, will appoint a commission to decide whether to suspend Still.

In his court filing, Still’s attorney claims the first-term state senator is “not a career politician” and that he was wrongly ensnared in the Fulton County election interference probe.

Bever points the finger at the state GOP party for nominating Still for the role and says his client “cast his ballot as directed” by counsel – including the incumbent president’s attorney – and then-state GOP chairman David Shafer, who has also been indicted and is also trying to have his case moved to federal court. Still’s actions that day as a fake elector were also an expression of protected free speech, his attorney argues.

“Nevertheless, the State indicted Mr. Still for attending a single meeting, on a single day, during which he followed the advice of counsel and politicians who have been at it way longer than he has,” Bever wrote in the court filing. 

Former Coffee County GOP chairwoman Cathy Latham, who also served as a fake elector, filed a motion Friday to have her case moved to federal court too, making similar arguments. That means all three false electors who have been indicted are trying to have their case removed from Fulton County Superior Court.

Latham, though, is also charged in connection to the breach of the Coffee County Elections and Registrations office Jan. 7, 2021. Altogether, Latham faces 11 charges in the Fulton County election interference probe.

Defenders of the fake elector strategy argue they were doing what was necessary to preserve Trump’s ability to test the integrity of the 2020 election and challenge the results. But a grand jury handed up a 41-count, 98-page indictment last week alleging Trump and 18 of his allies illegally attempted to overturn the election by deploying a multistate plot that relied on appointing these false GOP electors. 

Still’s attorney, Bever, said this after Still was first indicted: “The evidence at trial will show that Sen. Still is innocent as the day is long. We look forward to our day in court to clear his good name.” 

Federal Judge Steve C. Jones has set a Sept. 18 court hearing for Still.

“No opinion about whether removal will be permitted, or the merits of Still’s federal defenses is being made at this time,” Jones wrote in a Friday order.

Georgia’s election results were confirmed three times, including one recount that was done by hand. A state-led investigation and multiple lawsuits also failed to turn up the widespread fraud Trump has long falsely claimed thwarted his bid for a second term. Trump’s own Attorney General in 2020 told the former president that he’d lost Georgia’s election and there was no evidence of fraud. 

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