Judge overseeing Fani Willis’ misconduct hearing says her disqualification is ‘possible’

News & Politics

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis may soon rue the day she appointed her married lover as top prosecutor on former President Donald Trump’s Georgia election interference case.

This week, the Fulton County Superior Court will take up misconduct allegations, including the claim that Willis financially benefited from hiring her ostensibly underqualified lover, Nathan Wade. Despite her best efforts, Willis may even have to testify under oath with Trump in the room watching.

The judge overseeing the case has made clear that the Democratic DA could ultimately be disqualified, although that may be the least of Willis’ concerns. After all, if it is found that Willis and her lover misled the court in their
Feb. 2 court filing, which suggested their affair did not begin until after Wade’s appointment, then the Fulton County DA could possibly face legal ramifications.

Even if the Black Panther’s daughter enjoys a good day in court on Feb. 15, that may not ultimately spare her from consequence, as House Republicans are
looking into whether Willis’ office misused federal funds; the Georgia Senate is investigating possible wrongdoing on her part; Fulton County Commissioner Bob Ellis is pressing Willis for information concerning her office’s financials and prosecutors; and she is being sued for allegedly failing to turn over records in compliance with the Georgia Open Records Act.

The accusations

The walls began to close in on Willis on Jan. 8 when Georgia lawyer Ashleigh Merchant
filed a 127-page court motion on behalf of Trump co-defendant Michael Roman requesting that Willis be disqualified and the charges against Roman be dismissed “on the grounds that the entire prosecution is invalid and unconstitutional.”

“The district attorney and the special prosecutor have violated laws regulating the use of public monies, suffer from irreparable conflicts of interest, and have violated their oaths of office under the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct and should be disqualified from prosecuting this matter,” said the filing.

In addition to suggesting Willis and Wade were involved in a relationship prior to his 2021 appointment, the filing intimated that Wade received preferential treatment from the DA’s office and was underqualified.

In the weeks since,
additional motions have been filed or adopted — on behalf of Trump, Bob Cheeley, former Georgia GOP Chair David Shafer, and ex-Coffee County GOP Chairwoman Cathy Latham.

While recent motions to disqualify Willis largely conform to the outlines of the Jan. 8 filing, they have also suggested that the DA tainted the case against Trump and his co-defendants by
fomenting “racial animus and prejudice against the defendants.”

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee has indicated that the Feb. 15 hearing will largely focus on whether Willis materially benefited from hiring Wade and the timeline of their romantic involvement,
reported the ABC News.

The Washington Post
noted, however, that McAfee will not hear testimony concerning Wade’s alleged lack of qualifications, as Willis was within her rights to hire anyone with “a heartbeat and a bar card.”

The stakes

Judge McAfee said during a hearing Monday, “I think it’s clear that disqualification can occur if evidence is produced demonstrating an actual conflict or the appearance of one.”

“The state has admitted a relationship existed. And so what remains to be proven is the existence and extent of any financial benefit, again if there was one,” continued McAfee.

Willis admitted earlier this month in a
176-page court filing that she was romantically involved with Wade but claimed there “was no personal relationship between them in November 2021 at the time of Special Prosecutor Wade’s appointment.”

The filing submitted by Willis’ legal team claimed further that the “personal relationship between Special Prosecutor Wade and District Attorney Willis has never involved direct or indirect financial benefit to District Attorney Willis” and that “Willis has no personal conflict of interest that justifies her disqualification personally or that of the Fulton County District Attorney’ Office.”

A lawyer for Trump’s co-defendant Michael Roman filed a
new complaint Friday casting doubt on whether the lovers were honest with the court about the timeline of their relationship.

The filing notes that attorney Terrence Bradley, a former friend and business associate of Wade’s, has “non-privileged, personal knowledge that the romantic relationship between Wade and Willis began prior to Willis being sworn as the district attorney for Fulton County, Georgia in January 2021.”

“Thus, Bradley can confirm that Willis contracted with Wade after Wade and Willis began a romantic relationship, thus rebutting Wade’s claim in his affidavit that they did not start dating until 2022,” continues the filing.

Bradley will apparently confirm that Willis and Wade occasionally lived together in a residence previously occupied in part by Robin Yeartie, a former employee of the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office and a friend of Willis.

“I think the issues at point here are whether a relationship existed, whether that relationship was romantic or non-romantic in nature, when it formed, and whether it continues,” McAfee said Monday. “And that’s only relevant because it’s in combination with the question of the existence and extent of any personal benefit conveyed as a result of their relationship.”

Wade and Willis have desperately attempted to have the Thursday hearing canceled, but it appears their protest has fallen on deaf ears.

McAfee said the defense successfully established a “good faith basis for relevance” for the Democratic DA’s testimony and that of her lover.

Anna Cross, a lawyer for the DA’s office, nevertheless
argued that the “defense is not bringing you facts, the defense is not bringing you law, the defense is bringing you gossip, and the court should not condone that practice.”

Trump apparently intends to show up in hopes of seeing Willis raked over the coals.

Citing indications from anonymous individuals “with knowledge of the possible trip,” the Washington Post
reported that Trump may join David Shafer in attending the misconduct hearing, which would draw more attention to the case and to the claims made therein about Willis.

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