Ruby Freeman and Misty Hampton had a few things in common. They were both from Georgia, and both were election workers in their hometowns. But their paths sharply diverged when Donald Trump began to push his fraudulent claims that he had won the 2020 presidential election and pressured officials in key swing states, including Georgia, to illegally change the outcome.
As part of their unrelenting pressure on Georgia officials in the weeks after the November 2020 election, Trump and his allies launched a vicious campaign of harassment against Freeman, ginning up crazy conspiracy theories about her and falsely accusing her of altering the vote count in Fulton County, which includes Atlanta, where she served as a temporary election worker. Trump’s supporters even tried to trick Freeman into falsely admitting that voting in Fulton County was rigged in favor of Joe Biden. Freeman refused to give in.
Misty Hampton, by contrast, was seduced by Trump’s election lies. She decided to help him try to overturn the election in Georgia by illegally giving his supporters access to voting equipment in rural Coffee County, where she was election supervisor.
The two women’s choices in the crucial days after the 2020 vote have now permanently altered their lives. Ruby Freeman is the undisputed hero of the 98-page indictment filed against Trump this week, while Misty Hampton is one of 18 co-conspirators charged in the case. The stories of Freeman and Hampton underscore how the illicit campaign by Trump and his allies to break the American democratic system came close to succeeding in part because they were aided by local collaborators in crucial states — but ultimately failed thanks to the courage of a handful of people in key positions. They were people like Al Schmidt, a Republican member of the municipal election board in Philadelphia who refused to go along with Trump’s post-election demands in Pennsylvania; Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman, who diverted rioters during the January 6 insurrection; and Ruby Freeman.
When Trump tried to overturn the election in Georgia, he and his supporters quickly sought to discredit the vote count in the Democratic stronghold of Fulton County. In an attempt to concoct lies about the election process there, they zeroed in on Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, both temporary election workers. They were Black women working in an urban county, which made them perfect targets for the racist conspiracy theories spread by Trump and his supporters.
The indictment filed against Trump and his co-conspirators in Fulton County this week (Trump’s fourth since April) details their efforts to harass and intimidate Freeman and get her to lie about the voting process in the county.
The latest indictment says that on December 10, 2020, Trump lawyer and adviser Rudy Giuliani claimed at a Georgia House of Representatives committee hearing that Freeman, Moss, and an unidentified man were “quite obviously surreptitiously passing around USB ports as if they’re vials of heroin or cocaine … to be used to infiltrate the crooked Dominion voting machines.” Giuliani alleged that between 12,000 and 24,000 ballots had been illegally counted in Fulton County to help Biden win.
On January 2, 2021, Trump called Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, demanding that Raffensperger find more votes for him so he could win Georgia. During the call, which is now a central piece of evidence in the Fulton County case, Trump repeatedly mentioned Freeman, claiming that she was a “professional vote scammer and known political operative.” Freeman, her daughter, and others were responsible for fraudulently awarding 18,000 ballots to Biden, he said, adding that Freeman “stuffed the ballot boxes,” the indictment states. The attacks from Trump, Giuliani, and others led Trump supporters to barrage Freeman with vitriolic phone calls and messages; they even showed up at her home.
When the harassment didn’t work, Trump and his supporters tried more direct intimidation, backed by lies.
The Publicist’s Scheme
On January 4, 2021, Trevian Kutti, a Trump supporter and a former publicist for Kanye West and R. Kelly, traveled from Chicago to Atlanta to try to meet Freeman, according to the indictment. Kutti had been recruited for the job by Harrison Floyd, the head of Black Voices for Trump, who has also been charged in the case.
Kutti went to Freeman’s house in Atlanta; when she couldn’t find her, Kutti told Freeman’s neighbor that she was a crisis manager trying to help. Later that day, Kutti, according to the indictment, reached Freeman by phone. She said that Freeman was in danger and that she should meet Kutti at a police station in suburban Cobb County. Once there, Kutti and Floyd, who joined the meeting by phone, told Freeman “that she needed protection” and that they could help her. The indictment charges Kutti, Floyd, and Stephen Lee, a right-wing minister, with conspiring to “solicit, request and importune” Freeman, and for “knowingly and unlawfully engaging in misleading conduct” to get her to make false statements about the vote counting in Fulton County.
Freeman resisted and has since been vindicated. In January, Biden awarded her and Moss Presidential Citizens Medals at the White House. They have sued Giuliani for defamation over the comments he made about them, and in July, Giuliani made a remarkable admission in that case: He acknowledged that he had made false statements about Freeman and Moss. The mother and daughter have already reached a settlement in another libel case against the right-wing One America News Network.
Misty Hampton took a very different path; while Freeman resisted Trump, Hampton embraced him. Hampton, the Coffee County election supervisor, illegally offered to give Trump and his allies access to the county’s voting systems.
Trump’s supporters jumped at Hampton’s invitation to pull apart the state’s voting equipment so they could make wild claims about it. Now Hampton — along with Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, Georgia Republican operative Cathleen Latham, and Atlanta-area bail bondsman Scott Hall — have all been charged in connection with a conspiracy to tamper with the election systems in Coffee County and commit election fraud. Powell allegedly hired an Atlanta cyber contracting firm, SullivanStrickler, to send employees to Coffee County to gain access to the election equipment, while Hampton, Latham, and Hall “aided, abetted and encouraged” SullivanStrickler employees to tamper with the equipment inside the Coffee County election office, according to the indictment.
On January 7, 2021 — the day after the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. — Latham, Hall, and employees of SullivanStrickler traveled from Atlanta to Coffee County, where Hampton gave them access to the election office and voting systems.
That timing is a sign that Trump and his co-conspirators were relentless in seeking to overturn the election, even after the failed insurrection.
Hampton resigned as Coffee County election supervisor in February 2021, but that wasn’t the end of her work on Georgia elections. This past April, Georgia state investigators seized the election computer server of rural Treutlen County after discovering that Hampton had been hired to work on a special election there. Treutlen officials claimed not to know about the controversy surrounding Hampton’s work in Coffee County, about 60 miles away.
“At that particular time, we did not have a clue what had been going on over [in Coffee County],” said Treutlen County manager T.J. Hudson, who hired Hampton. Hudson, a Republican, said he knew Hampton “through an informal network of county election officials in Georgia.”
Ultimately, Hampton got her wish. Eager to help Trump, she is now inextricably linked to him under Georgia law.