A former Georgia deputy said he had plans to charge Black Georgians with felonies to prevent them from voting, according to court filings in the Middle District of Georgia.
Cody Griggers, 28, pleaded guilty on Monday to one count of possession of an unregistered firearm. He was fired from his position in November 2020 after FBI investigators messaged the Wilkinson County sheriff about the investigation into Griggers, the Raleigh News & Observer reported.
The FBI first became aware of Griggers from a separate federal case in California regarding an associate of his, Grey Zamudio. They started investigated Zamudio after receiving a tip about Facebook posts that said “it’s up to vigilantie militia to crush the liberal terrorists.” Investigators seized Zamudio’s cell phone from a search warrant where they discovered that he and Griggers regularly communicated in a group text known as “Shadow Moses.”
According to the filing, Griggers wrote extensively in the group about purchasing illegal weapons and explosives and “expressed viewpoints consistent with white racially motivated extremists,” including positive references to the Holocaust.
In August 2019, Griggers wrote in the group that he used excessive force on a theft suspect and said the beating was “sweet stress relief.”
“I beat the s— out of a n—–t on Saturday,” he wrote. “Sherrif’s dept said it look like he fell.”
Griggers also said he planned to charge Black Georgians with felonies to prevent them from voting, the court documents show.
“It’s a sign of beautiful things to come,” Griggers said. “Also I’m going to charge them with whatever felonies I can to take away their ability to vote.”
Two months after detailing his plan to strip Black Georgians from being able to vote, Griggers reiterated his desire to disenfranchise voters in the event of a second Civil War, the filing shows.
“I think it might be best to fight the next generation,” Griggers wrote in the group text. “Castrate, kill, remove voting rights, and also educate the population. Basically kill and f— the enemy out of existence.”
After executing a search warrant at Griggers’ home in November 2020, investigators said they discovered an unregistered rifle with an illegally shortened barrel. Griggers’ work vehicle was searched as well, where officers discovered several additional weapons including a machine gun with an “obliterated serial number” that was not issued to him by the Wilkinson County Sheriffs Office. In total, investigators found 11 illegal firearms.
“This former law enforcement officer knew that he was breaking the law when he chose to possess a cache of unregistered weapons, silencers, and a machinegun, keeping many of them in his duty vehicle, said Acting US Attorney Peter Leary in a DOJ release. “Coupled with his violent racially motivated extreme statements, the defendant has lost the privilege permanently of wearing the blue.”
Griggers’ sentencing is set for July 6. He faces up to 10 years in prison for the firearm charge followed by three years of supervised release and a maximum fine of $250,000.
The “revenge porn” lawsuit ex-Congresswoman Katie Hill brought against media outlets for distributing nude photos of her likely won’t stand in court, legal experts say.
Hill was elected as a Democratic representative in a California swing district in 2018 and the photos led to her resignation in 2019. She brought the lawsuit against her ex-husband Kenneth Heslep, who she says leaked the photos of her to the right-wing media outlet RedState and the British tabloid The Daily Mail. The lawsuit also targets RedState, The Daily Mail, and the individual journalists at those publications involved with publishing those photos.
Because Hill alleges that Heslep effectively laundered revenge porn through media outlets, taking advantage of the fact that she’s a public figure, the case has been described as a source of tension between the First Amendment and the California law designed to protect victims of harassment.
A draft court decision obtained by Insider indicates that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yolanda Orozco will likely grant a motion to dismiss the case from the media outlets and individual journalists.
The “revenge porn” law Hill brings her lawsuit under, the draft decision says, has a carve-out for “distributed material [that] constitutes a matter of public concern.” Photos of a member of US Congress in an extramarital relationship and using drugs constitutes just that, the draft says.
Eugene Volokh, a First Amendment scholar and a professor at the UCLA School of Law who’s written about the case, told Insider that the California legislature “has considered this very issue” to ensure the law doesn’t come into contradiction with free speech concerns.
“There is specifically an exemption for distributed material that constitutes a matter of public concern,” Volokh said. “That is a rare situation when it comes to nonconsensual distribution of pornography like this, but it sometimes happens. And this seems like a classic example.”
Attorneys representing Hill and Heslep didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.
The case against Hill’s ex-husband may still stand
Orozco said in a hearing Wednesday that she would delay her final decision in order to hear a decision from Jennifer Van Laar, the RedState reporter and a former Republican political operative, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.
But even if Orozco dismisses Hill’s case against the media outlets, that doesn’t mean she’ll dismiss it against Hill’s ex-husband.
Boesch described the photos of Hill as traveling through a “chain” of responsibility, where media organizations illustrate the photos as being in the public interest, while Heslep likely had different motives. Heslep might deserve less First Amendment protection, Boesch said.
“If he’s doing these things, it’s a malicious act with the intent to hurt,” Boesch said. “And arguably that is what she’s focused on.”
Volokh told Insider that the exemption cited by the judge’s draft order doesn’t draw a distinction between who’s distributing the photos. It only matters that the photos are “a matter of public concern.
“The question is, is the material that’s actually being distributed a matter of public concern? This is an unusual situation where it is,” he said, adding: “It’s not like there’s an exception for publication by a newspaper. It’s an exception for when the distributed material constitutes a matter of public concern.”
Heslep hasn’t responded to the lawsuit, which was first filed in December, according to court records reviewed by Insider. He is also involved in a separate lawsuit with Hill over allegations that he abused her while they were married.
Even if Heslep is ultimately found liable for leaking the photos, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Daily Mail or RedState would be running afoul of the law, according to Hannah Bloch-Wehba, a professor at the Texas A&M School of Law who studies law and technology.
“The rule is typically that the media can’t be liable for just publishing information, even if the information is illegally obtained by the source,” Bloch-Wehba told Insider. “So whoever ultimately leaked the photograph might have done that in violation of the law. But as long as the media outlet didn’t itself violate the law in obtaining the photos, they are probably in the clear as a First Amendment matter.”
Hill has characterized the RedState and The Daily Mail stories as a matter of partisan skullduggery rather than in the public interest. Jennifer Van Laar, who first published the photos on RedState’s website, worked as a Republican political operative before working for RedState, according to the Los Angeles Times.
But Bloch-Wehba said a person’s background wouldn’t matter when it comes to free speech protections.
“The rule is not that you’re entitled to First Amendment protection if you’re a perfectly objective commentator who’s never played a role in politics,” she said.
“It’s going to be a tough case – it’s kind of this intersection of the First Amendment and the right to privacy and where that line is drawn,” she said, adding: “I think it’s important for how we set the standard for the way women are treated as they run for office and are in the public eye, no matter what their circumstance is.”
Boesch told Insider he can imagine the judge wanting to “do justice” in the case even if she removes the media outlets as defendants.
“I look at what happened to her, and you almost think that a judge thinking about this is going to try to find ways to do justice, not just toss out the whole thing,” Boesch said.
The mustachioed, press-shy Allen Weisselberg has served as the Trump Organization’s Chief Financial Officer for decades, as well as Trump’s personal bookkeeper. Now, he’s reportedly the subject of a wide-ranging inquiry from the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
Weisselberg knows more about the Trump Organization’s finances than anyone else
Weisselberg got his start with the Trump family in the 1970s as a bookkeeper for Fred Trump.
Over the years, he ascended the ranks of the Trump Organization to become its chief financial officer, and has held the keys to the family’s financial life, as well. (While other reports refer to him as an accountant, Weisselberg does not hold a CPA license, according to New York state records.)
“There’s a misconception about The Trump Organization that it’s this big, massive company with 10,000 employees,” Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer and a vice president for the Trump Organization, said in Congressional testimony. “It’s not. I mean, the entire company was really run by 12 of us.”
Weisselberg’s name made headlines in 2018 and 2019 as federal prosecutors investigated Cohen’s hush-money payments ahead of the 2016 election to women who accused Trump of having affairs with them.
Cohen released a tape purporting to show Weisselberg discussing how to facilitate the payments and what they might mean for the Trump Organization. And while Cohen ultimately pleaded guilty to federal crimes in connection with the scheme, The Wall Street Journal reported Weisselberg himself received immunity for cooperating with the investigators in the Southern District of New York who prosecuted Cohen, avoiding charges.
While the Manhattan District Attorney’s office likely has all the documents they need for their investigation, Jeff Robbins, a former federal prosecutor who oversaw money-laundering investigations, said that having someone like Weisselberg guide them through all the evidence could be enormously helpful.
“I’m sure the records have been turned over by the hundreds and thousands,” Robbins told Insider. “However, it sure makes it a lot easier if you have somebody who can walk the prosecutors through the documents and explain the sequence, and who would have had direct conversations with Trump.”
Unlike Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, two of Trump’s eldest children who play leading roles in his company, Weisselberg has made few forays into politics. New York state voter registration records reviewed by Insider show that he’s a registered Republican living in Manhattan’s Upper West Side (the building previously carried Trump branding that has since been removed), but he didn’t donate to any of his boss’ presidential campaigns.
Weisselberg also donated to former Illinois Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, a Democrat who led the House’s powerful Ways and Means Committee, in 1994. The donation came a month before Rostenkowski was criminally indicted for his role in a corruption scandal that ultimately led to his resignation and a guilty plea on mail fraud charges.
Weisselberg and his wife have a home, a short drive away from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, in Boynton Beach, Florida. They’re currently involved in a lawsuit with their homeowner insurance company over damage following 2017’s Hurricane Irma.
Mary Mulligan, an attorney representing Weisselberg at Friedman Kaplan Seiler & Adelman LLP, declined to comment for this story.
His family’s financial ties with the Trump Organization go into legal gray areas
The Trumps have always seemed to have a porous wall between their personal finances and their businesses and foundations. In 2019, Trump paid $2 million to settle a lawsuit the New York Attorney General’s office brought, alleging he used resources from The Trump Foundation to boost his political fortunes.
These gray areas reportedly extend to Weisselberg and his family. And they also run into possible legal conundrums.
In November 2000, according to Bloomberg News, Trump gave a unit at Trump Parc East, a condominium building at 100 Central Park South, to Weisselberg and his wife, Hilary. Records reviewed by Insider show it had a sale price of $152,500, an eye-poppingly low price for prime Manhattan real estate.
The couple sold it to their son Jack Weisselberg in 2003 for $148,000, who sold it for $570,000 in 2006, Bloomberg News reported.
Barry Weisselberg, another one of Allen Weisselberg’s sons, has even closer and more complicated financial ties with the Trumps. He’s an employee at the Trump Organization, having managed the Wollman ice skating rink in Central Park, which until recently was run by the company through a contract with New York City.
He, too, received an apartment at the Trump Parc East building. According to Bloomberg News, Barry and his now-ex-wife Jennifer Weisselberg received it as a wedding gift in the mid-2000s from Trump and paid for only utilities, at around $400 per month. When the couple moved out, it was rented out for nearly $5,000 per month, and a Trump-owned entity sold it for $2.8 million in 2014, according to Bloomberg.
But while Barry and Jennifer Weisselberg both lived there, Barry listed it as a corporate apartment in his divorce proceedings, Bloomberg News reported. Their tax returns, though, according to Bloomberg News, didn’t always list the apartment as a corporate perk. The designation may mean that Barry Weisselberg and the Trump Organization itself may have not paid the correct amount of taxes on the apartment, Bloomberg’s Caleb Melby reported.
“On the question of where Allen Weisselberg stands in the evidence pyramid, he stands right below Donald Trump himself,” Robbins, now an attorney at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr, told Insider. “So it does appear to be an exploration on the part of the DA’s office as to whether or not they can flip Allen Weisselberg by leveraging one of his two sons.”
The investigation into the Weisselbergs grew out of Vance’s investigation into the Trump Organization’s business dealings with other companies, including Deutsche Bank and Ladder Capital. Jack Weisselberg is also a subject of the probe, though it’s unclear if he had any role in loans Ladder Capitol gave to the Trump organization, according to Bloomberg News.
The Trump Organization also gave Barry Weisselberg an Upper East Side townhouse while he was in the divorce process in 2018, according to Bloomberg News. It isn’t clear how Weisselberg and the Trump Organization treated it in tax filings.
While Allen Weisselberg seems to have been loyal to the Trump family for years, Robbin said the pressure on his family could flip him.
“The likelihood of him cooperating goes up significantly if, in fact, the prosecutors have criminal charges that can reasonably be brought against his sons,” Robbins said. “For the simple human reason that what father would not do something unpleasant in order to help his sons out of a legal jam?”
Apartments seem to be a common perk for Trump employees. Cohen also had an apartment in one of Trump’s buildings while working for the mogul, and former communications director Hope Hicks stayed in one “rent-free” during Trump’s 2016 campaign. Matthew Calamari, Trump’s loyal longtime head of security, also has a home in the Trump Parc East building, according to records reviewed by Insider.
Jake Weisselberg and representatives for Ladder Capital didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment. Barry Weisselberg couldn’t be reached for comment. Jennifer Weisselberg didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The CFO testified for federal prosecutors in Manhattan who secured Cohen’s guilty plea. Weisselberg helped the Trump Organization reimburse Cohen the $130,000 hush-money payment he made to Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress who said she had sex with Donald Trump during Melania Trump’s pregnancy.
Weisselberg’s name didn’t appear in the charging documents against Cohen, and he was never charged for his participation in the scheme.
Cohen hasn’t forgiven Weisselberg. When the news broke that prosecutors were looking into Weisselberg’s family, he took to Twitter.
“Remember that Allen Weisselberg received (federal) immunity from the SDNY to provide information and testify against me for the @StormyDaniels payment. #KarmaBoomerang,” Cohen wrote.
Weisselberg told prosecutors he had little knowledge of the Trump Foundation’s operations and testified he had no knowledge that he was on the Trump Foundation’s board of directors in a deposition transcript reviewed by Insider.
He did, however, testify that the foundation was used to boost Trump’s campaign in 2016. James’ office used the testimony in its lawsuit against the Trump Foundation where a judge forced Trump to pay a $2 million fine.
Weisselberg’s vast knowledge of Trump’s finances has made him a target in civil lawsuits, as well.
He was a defendant in a 2017 lawsuit from William Weinstein, a New York resident who sought to create a mechanism to ensure that Trump wouldn’t take foreign profits as president through the Trump Organization. It was dismissed in short order, with the judge ruling that Weinstein didn’t have the standing to sue. Trump has steadfastly refused to release financial records, and The New York Times reported that Trump has paid far more in foreign taxes over the past two decades than in US taxes.
He’s been less helpful in an ongoing investigation from the New York AG
Weisselberg also testified in a different, ongoing investigation into Trump’s finances from James’ office, sitting for a deposition under subpoena in July and August 2020.
“When examined by [the office of the attorney general], however, Mr. Weisselberg testified that he had no first-hand knowledge of this fact, had not reviewed the relevant documents to confirm that any such understanding was true, could not identify any return on which the forgiveness was treated as income, and instead was relying solely upon his recollection of conversations he had years earlier with the Trump Organization’s accountants concerning the tax treatment of the amount of the debt that was forgiven,” the filing says.
The Trump Organization refused to furnish the relevant tax documents, attorneys for the AG office wrote in the filing.