Will ‘bombshell’ allegations of romance between Georgia DA, special prosecutor lead to tossed charges?
Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani T. Willis, center, speaks in the Fulton County Government Center during a news conference Aug. 14, 2023, in Atlanta. Willis hired Nathan Wade, right, as a special prosecutor in the election-interference case against former President Donald Trump. Photo by John Bazemore/The Associated Press.
A co-defendant in the Georgia racketeering case against former President Donald Trump is seeking to have the case tossed because of an alleged relationship between the special prosecutor and the Fulton County, Georgia, district attorney who appointed him.
The “bombshell public filing” claims that Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani T. Willis and the special prosecutor, Nathan Wade, were “engaged in an improper, clandestine personal relationship” that has been profitable for both parties, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
The Jan. 8 court filing said Wade has earned more than $650,000 in legal fees since November 2021 in the case, and some of the money has been spent on the couple’s Caribbean cruises and vacations to California and Florida.
Publications covering the filing, in addition to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, include the New York Times, Atlanta News First, the Washington Post, WABE and Law360.
Wade filed for divorce one day after his November 2021 appointment by Willis. Wade’s estranged wife subpoenaed Willis this week, according to the New York Times and the Washington Post.
The co-defendant, former Trump campaign official Michael Roman, raised questions about Wade’s litigation experience in the court filing, which was filed by his lawyer Ashleigh Merchant.
The New York Times reports that Wade was “largely unknown” before his appointment. He has prior prosecution experience in the Cobb County, Georgia, solicitor general’s office, which prosecutes misdemeanors and traffic citations. He also was an associate judge in an Atlanta suburb, hearing cases involving misdemeanors, traffic tickets and ordinance violations.
Roman’s filing asks for the case to be thrown out or, in the alternative, asks for disqualification of Willis, her office and the special prosecutor.
Legal experts say it is unlikely that the case will be thrown out, according to Law360 and WABE.
First, the allegations must be backed up with evidence, the experts told Law360. And if there is evidence, it is unlikely that the case will be tossed, the experts said.
“If they have enough evidence to move forward, then the fact that there’s a potential conflict of interest because maybe she should not have picked her boyfriend—if he is her boyfriend—I am struggling to see how that is grounds to get the whole thing dismissed,” said Jan Jacobowitz, an ethics expert at the University of Miami School of Law.
Clark Cunningham, a professor at the Georgia State University College of Law, said the allegations could lead to investigations of Willis by state ethics officials or by a new prosecutor oversight commission being created in the state. The standard for disqualification, he said, was set in a 2014 Georgia Supreme Court decision, McLaughlin v. Payne, which found that a district attorney should have been disqualified because of a personal interest in the case.
“It may seem to people kind of far-fetched that Mr. Roman is being prosecuted, so that [Willis] can take a vacation in the Caribbean,” Cunningham told WABE.
Law360 said Georgia’s Republican attorney general, Chris Carr, would decide on a new prosecutor if Willis and her office are disqualified. Carr is seeking to keep Trump on the ballot in Colorado.
But the Washington Post points to another decision-maker if the office is disqualified: the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia.
“But it would likely not be a quick decision,” the Washington Post said.
The agency is still deciding a replacement after a judge barred Willis’ investigation of a Trump elector in 2022 because Willis had hosted a fundraiser for his campaign opponent in the race for lieutenant governor.
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