To flip or not to flip? Co-defendants in Donald Trump cases have the option to save themselves: Following the retraction of a previous statement to a grand jury by an IT worker in Mar-a-Lago who has decided to cooperate instead with the special counsel in the classified documents case against former president Donald Trump, other co-accused in Trump’s other indictments could consider changing sides, according to some legal experts.
Yuscil Taveras, who worked at the IT department in the Trump-owned luxury resort, previously testified under oath before a grand jury that he did not have any knowledge that Trump, aide Walt Nauta, and Mar-a-Lago property manager Carlos De Oliveira worked to delete security footage from the resort that federal prosecutors had subpoenaed. Federal prosecutors, however, said they knew Taveras’ claim was false and had the evidence to back it up. When threatened with perjury charges, Taveras switched lawyers, cooperated with authorities, and reportedly delivered key evidence that prosecutors could use against Trump, Nauta, and Oliviera.
If ‘smoking gun’ evidence has been given to prosecutors, it would seem Donald Trump could be looking at jail time if, of course, found guilty.
All three have pleaded not guilty to all charges against them.
Michael McAuliffe, former federal prosecutor and former elected state attorney, cited Taveras’ change of counsel, and said that other defendants could follow suit and deal for more lenient treatment from authorities as well. Taveras was previously represented by Stanley Woodward, who also represents Nauta. Woodward’s services are bankrolled by Trump PAC Save America. He is now represented by a first assistant federal defender and will not face any charges in exchange for his cooperation.
“That witnesses, targets, and defendants all have the benefit of conflict-free counsel is critical in any criminal case,” McAuliffe told news outlet Newsweek.
McAuliffe explained that Taveras’ change of heart “likely won’t change Trump’s approach,” he said.
However, McAuliffe added that “Nauta and De Oliveira are in a different category of culpability. “They did not create or lead the efforts to obstruct or withhold documents. In theory, a defendant’s lawyer should be constantly reevaluating the likelihood of conviction for the client and assessing whether cooperation is in the client’s best interest,” he explained.
Prosecutors have raised concerns that Woodward’s participation in the trial, as he continues to represent Nauta, could constitute a conflict of interest if every Taveras is called to the stand and his former counsel would subject him to cross-examination.
For his part, Woodward has dismissed any concerns over conflict of interest, and said that he welcomed Taveras’ change in counsel. He also said that he was not a part of Taveras’ deal with federal prosecutors in any way, shape, or form, and that the agreement was struck between the two parties after he ceased representing Taveras. He has also asked the presiding judge, Judge Aileen Cannon, to bar Taveras from testifying in the classified documents case.
Tim Ramos has written for various publications, corporations, and organizations – covering everything from finance, politics, travel, entertainment, and sports – in Asia and the U.S. for more than 10 years.