Jenna Ellis smiled in her mugshot. The former Trump attorney who was indicted alongside him and 17 others over an alleged conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election results even made the Fulton County booking photo her profile picture on Twitter. “Those who mock me, my former client, and my God want to see me break and they aren’t going to get that satisfaction,” she told The New York Times in August.
On Tuesday, through tears, Jenna Ellis accepted a plea deal from Georgia prosecutors. Five years probation and some community service in exchange for her truthful testimony against her co-defendants. While Ellis’ role in the upcoming trial remains an open-ended question, something else looms over her decision to flip on her former allies: the $216,431 crowdsourced by friends and Trump supporters to fund her legal defense.
In the aftermath of her indictment, major players in MAGA-land rushed to help boost a fundraiser supporting Ellis. Figures like Congressman Chip Roy (R-Texas), Daily Wire host Ben Shapiro, One America News’ Liz Wheeler, Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec, Fox Host Mark Levin, Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe, far-right writer Ashley St. Claire, and former congressional candidate Robby Starbuck posted links to Ellis’ fundraiser or urged their followers to donate.
There was a pretty large push in conservative media to crowdfund Ellis' defense — she ended up raising more than $200K. pic.twitter.com/poOREyWQ9a
— Andy Kaczynski (@KFILE) October 24, 2023
At one point, Ellis claimed that she had “gotten support and donations from a lot of DEMOCRATS […] and private notes saying they support me, one saying ‘against America’s true enemies’ and another ‘this is totally unconstitutional.’” A link to the fund remained the pinned tweet on her X account on the day of her guilty plea.
Despite her support for Trump in the aftermath of the election, and her alleged participation in schemes to help keep him in power, Ellis was among several of the former president’s allies left to fend for themselves as his legal troubles dragged them into the sights of prosecutors — even though Trump regularly dips into his massive campaign coffers to cover his own legal expenses.
“I was reliably informed Trump isn’t funding any of us who are indicted,” Ellis tweeted in August, shortly after she was indicted. “Would this change if he becomes the  nominee? Why then, not now? I totally agree this has become a bigger principle than just one man. So why isn’t MAGA, Inc. funding everyone’s defense?”
I was reliably informed Trump isn’t funding any of us who are indicted.
Would this change if he becomes the nominee? Why then, not now?
I totally agree this has become a bigger principle than just one man. So why isn’t MAGA, Inc. funding everyone’s defense? https://t.co/dI0JvThJyp
— Jenna Ellis (@JennaEllisEsq) August 19, 2023
Nevertheless, Ellis fell back to asking for donations to fund her defense, and the prospect of a lengthy trial with no reliable stream of income likely factored into her decision to accept a deal with prosecutors. The question now is whether Ellis’ decision to make a deal with prosecutors will draw backlash from the figures who supported her financially in the aftermath of her indictment. Attorneys for Ellis did not respond to a set of questions from Rolling Stone clarifying what would become of the fund, but the criticism had already begun.
Pro-Trump activist Laura Loomer wrote on X that “Jenna Ellis scammed all of you who donated to her. I TOLD YOU NOT TO DONATE TO THIS DISLOYAL WENCH […] She’s now going to use the money so many of you foolishly gave her to work against President Trump in an election year. Shame on every single MORON who donated to Jenna Ellis.”
Jenna Ellis scammed all of you who donated to her.
I TOLD YOU NOT TO DONATE TO THIS DISLOYAL WENCH.
Today she accepted a plea deal, which will only require her to pay a $5,000 fine and get probation for 5 years. She didn’t even attempt to fight the charges.
She’s now going… https://t.co/Ixof9IefZi pic.twitter.com/YywNJz1aKU
— Laura Loomer (@LauraLoomer) October 24, 2023
Former Breitbart editor Raheem Kassam derided Ellis for taking “$216,000 from the public, claiming she was going to “fight” against the court case. Instead, she copped a plea deal today.”
Pro-Trump political consultant Alex Bruesewitz called it an “absolute disgrace” that Ellis raised $216k from grassroots donors in the name of “fighting back” and then immediately caved.”
“Is she pocketing the money? I think she should return it,” Bruesewitz added.
Conservative podcast host Breanna Morello wrote on X that Ellis had “raised $216,431 on GiveSendGo by promising the American people she would fight for the truth,” and then “folded in just a few weeks.”
“Will she refund her donors?” Morello asked. “Likely not. A grifter has to grift.”
On Wednesday, the fundraiser description was changed “to answer a question that has been raised regarding the fund. The legal fees and costs [incurred by Ellis] significantly exceeded the amount raised by the fund.” The recipient of the fund is listed as Melito Law LLC, and is still accepting donations.
Ellis is not the only defendant struggling to pay off legal bills. Rudy Giuliani was sued last month by his ex-attorneys for nearly $1.4 million dollars in unpaid legal fees and keeps losing attorneys amid his financial turmoil.
Trump’s failure to extend monetary assistance to his Georgia co-defendants may backfire against him. Ellis is the fourth of those indicted to accept a plea deal in exchange for testimony — following bail bondsman Scott Hall, lawyer Ken Chesebro, and election attorney Sidney Powell — and a sense of every man for themselves has now supplanted the unified front the co-defendants presented in the aftermath of the 2020 election.
This article was updated on October 25, 2023, to include additional details regarding the future of the fund.
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