ATLANTA — The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said it has concluded months of criminal investigation into a security breach at south Georgia’s Coffee County election office. That case now plays a central role in a Fulton County indictment of former president Trump and 18 others.
The GBI quietly handed over its Coffee County case file to the state attorney general’s office one week after the Fulton County indictments were announced last month.
Among other things, surveillance video shows an image of Coffee County Election Director Misty Hampton appearing to cut through a security device on a poll pad. That helped give visitors an illegal look inside the state’s secure election machinery, according to prosecutors.
"They were quite open with the fact that they did forensic imaging of all the machines, all the equipment," said Dr. Rich DeMillo, a founder of Georgia Tech's School of Cybersecurity, who has followed the case closely. "This is everything from election management systems to touchscreen (ballot marking) devices. And then posted it so that other people around the world could have access to it."
The GBI has been scouring this and other evidence from Coffee County since late last year. Before the GBI concluded its investigation in late August, Fulton County prosecutors had already charged four people with crimes related to the Coffee County case.
Hampton, Cathy Latham and Scott Hall allegedly engineered the visit by Trump loyalists to illegally access the election system. Trump attorney Sidney Powell allegedly helped finance it.
The Georgia Cyber Crime Center is also scouring computer forensics for evidence from Coffee County, according to the GBI. DeMillo said it’s unclear that they’ll have much to see.
"In the case of this technology, it's difficult to unravel sometimes because the stuff you're trying to discover is pretty smart. It covers its tracks. It erases itself," he said.
A spokeswoman for Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr did not respond to a request for comment.
Because the GBI’s case file isn’t public, it’s unclear how much of its findings could turn up in Fulton County’s prosecution of the four defendants connected to Coffee County. Fulton is prosecuting them as part of an alleged election interference conspiracy that extended from Washington D.C. to Michigan to Atlanta and Coffee County.