On Monday, a Georgia state judge confirmed that an evidentiary hearing will be held Thursday over allegations that embattled District Attorney Fani Willis engaged in an “improper” affair with a colleague, amid her highly publicized case against former President Donald Trump.
Willis was accused of having an “improper” affair with special prosecutor Nathan Wade, whom she hired to help in the sweeping racketeering case against Trump related to his conduct in connection to the 2020 election.
The allegations were first made by Trump co-defendant Michael Roman, who argued that Willis’ alleged conduct should disqualify her and her team from the case.
Willis admitted to the personal relationship with Wade but denied any conflict of interest and asked the court to cancel the evidentiary hearing slated for later this week.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee said in a hearing Monday considering those motions, “in studying the law that’s been filed up to this point, I think it’s clear that disqualification can occur if evidence is produced demonstrating an actual conflict or the appearance of one. And the filing submitted on this issue so far have presented a conflict in the evidence that can’t be resolved as a matter of law.”
“Specifically looking at defendant Roman’s motion, it alleges a personal relationship that resulted in a financial benefit to the district attorney. And that is no longer a matter of complete speculation. The state has admitted a relationship existed. And so, what remains to be proven is the existence and extent of any financial benefit,” the judge said.
“So, because I think it’s possible that the facts alleged by the defendant could result in disqualification, I think an evidentiary hearing must occur to establish the record on those core allegations,” he said.
In legal filings from January, Roman alleged that Wade billed Fulton County for 24 hours of work in a single day in November 2021, not long after he was appointed as a special prosecutor. Roman also alleged that Willis financially benefited from her lover’s salary by taking lavish vacations together on his dime.
According to court documents, Wade, who has no RICO, nor felony prosecution experience, has billed taxpayers $654,000 since January 2022.
McAfee said Monday that “the particulars” of Wade’s experience will not be relevant in the evidentiary hearing, which will take place on Thursday, Feb. 15, adding, “in my mind as long as a lawyer has a heartbeat and a bar card that lawyer’s appointment standing alone is a matter within the District Attorney’s discretion.”
McAfee said 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. 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.”
Willis responded to the allegations in a court filing and admitted to having a “personal” relationship with Wade but denied any conflict of interest, claiming that the allegations are “salacious” and have no “merit.”
Additionally, she argued that, according to Georgia law, any conflict of interest must be harmful to a defendant’s case to remove a district attorney from it.
Willis claims that while she and Wade “have been professional associates and friends since 2019,” there was “no personal relationship” between her and Wade in November 2021 at the time of Wade’s appointment, and that Roman and his lawyers “offer no support for their insistence that the exercise of any prosecutorial discretion (i.e., any charging decision or plea recommendation) in this case was impacted by any personal relationship.”
Willis’ filing said Roman’s motions “attempt to cobble together entirely unremarkable circumstances of Special Prosecutor Wade’s appointment with completely irrelevant allegations about his personal family life into a manufactured conflict of interest on the part of the District Attorney.”
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