2 Chicago-area people indicted with Trump, accused of trying to overturn Georgia election results

Trevian C. Kutti, a publicist who worked with R. Kelly and Kanye West, and Stephen Cliffgard Lee, a Lutheran pastor, are accused of pressuring an election worker to make false claims of voter fraud.

SHARE 2 Chicago-area people indicted with Trump, accused of trying to overturn Georgia election results
Trevian Kutti publicist crisis manager Chicago

Trevian C. Kutti, a Chicago publicist who has worked with R. Kelly and Kanye West, was among 19 people indicted in a criminal scheme to overturn former President Donald Trump’s narrow loss in Georgia during the 2020 presidential election.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

A Chicago publicist who worked with R. Kelly and Kanye West and a suburban Lutheran minister are among those indicted late Monday for their alleged involvement in a scheme to pressure an election worker in Fulton County, Georgia, to falsely admit to committing election fraud in 2020.

Trevian C. Kutti and Stephen Cliffgard Lee are two of the 19 people charged in the 41-count indictment accusing former President Donald Trump and his allies of a criminal enterprise to overturn his narrow loss in Georgia during the 2020 presidential election.

Kutti is a publicist based in Chicago who also recently worked as an Illinois pot lobbyist. Lee, a 70-year-old Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod minister, is a pastor at Living Word Lutheran Church in Orland Park.

Kutti and Lee each face three charges of conspiring to commit solicitation of false statements and writings, influencing witnesses and violating Georgia’s RICO Act, the state’s racketeering law.

Lee was charged with an additional two counts of “criminal intent to commit influencing witnesses.”

Kutti and Lee were accused of attempting to influence the same election worker multiple times in December 2020 and January 2021 in Fulton County, Georgia.

The nearly 100-page indictment alleges Kutti, Lee and other co-conspirators tried to intimidate election worker Ruby Freeman to falsely confess to election crimes she did not commit. Freeman helped count ballots at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena on election night.

Trump and his supporters baselessly accused Freeman and her daughter of stuffing voting boxes with ballots brought into the arena in suitcases.

On multiple days in December 2020, Lee showed up at Freeman’s home, pretending to offer help and trying to persuade her to change her official testimony about the election results, according to the indictment.

Stephen Cliffgard Lee is a Lutheran minister.

Stephen Cliffgard Lee, a Chicago-area Lutheran minister, was among 19 people indicted in an alleged criminal scheme to overturn former President Donald Trump’s narrow loss in Georgia during the 2020 presidential election.

Screenshot from Sunday service livestream at Living Word Lutheran Church

On January 4, 2021, Kutti was recruited by Harrison William Prescott Floyd, leader of Black Voices for Trump, to travel from Chicago to Atlanta to also attempt to sway Freeman, the charges allege.

That day, Kutti unsuccessfully tried to visit Freeman at her home. Kutti falsely claimed to a neighbor that she was a crisis manager there to help Freeman. She later called Freeman to tell her she was in danger, the indictment said.

Also on Jan. 4, Kutti met with Freeman at the Cobb County Police Department for an hour to offer her help and tell her she needed protection, all attempts to influence her testimony, according to the indictment.

The indictment also lists times when Kutti and Lee communicated with each other and different people facing charges about the conspiracy to change election results.

In a statement, Kutti said she was “appalled at these accusations” and she was “simply being a crisis manager.”

“Working with Ye and Mr. Kelly truly made me understand the amount of false accusations that can be given to strong people such as Trump. I am no politician and have no interest in being one. I would like to quote Ye, one of my favorite people I have worked with: ‘The media is trying to crucify me like I’m Christ.’”

David Shestokas, the lawyer representing Lee, declined to comment on the charges. Shestokas ran for the Republican nomination for Illinois attorney general last year and served on Trump’s legal team in Pennsylvania, making false claims about illegal voting in the state.

Orland Park attorney David Shestokas New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani Chicago

Orland Park attorney David Shestokas (left), seen with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, contested election results in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, in November 2020.

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Indicted pastor is an ‘honest man,’ neighbor says

Lee has been the pastor of Living Word Lutheran Church since at least 2021. Church president Neal Hartz declined to comment Tuesday about Lee or the charges, but said he was still pastor of the church.

“All of that is political crap that you people are pulling off. I’m tired of it,” Hartz said.

A livestreamed video of Sunday’s church service showed Lee as pastor. Lee is a former California police sergeant and U.S. Navy investigator.

Living Word Lutheran Church Orland Park Chicago

Living Word Lutheran Church in Orland Park.

livingwordorland.org

Last year, he was called “the Ground Zero chaplain” for his work with first responders after the 9/11 attacks when he endorsed Republican congressional candidate James Marter of Illinois’ 14th District.

In the endorsement speech for Marter, Lee said he had been a missionary in Liberia and was a consultant in chaplaincy in Nicaragua and Russia. He said he’s responded to Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters.

Lee did not answer phone calls or a knock on the door of his home in Montgomery on Tuesday.

One of Lee’s neighbors said they were surprised to hear from a reporter that he had been indicted.

“It’s hard to believe it,” said the neighbor, who asked not to be named. “He’s an honest man, a community man.”

The neighbor said Lee has lived in the neighborhood for around 10 years and has a couple of children.

In a 2022 interview with the Reuters, Lee did not dispute that he pressured Freeman but would not say who sent him.

In November, Lee successfully fought off a subpoena requesting that he testify in the Fulton County special grand jury investigation.

Contributing: WBEZ’s Natalie Moore

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