The Georgia judge overseeing the election interference case against former President Donald Trump and others has ordered a hearing next month to examine accusations of misconduct against the district attorney who launched the case.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has been accused of an improper relationship with a special prosecutor and is facing allegations of misconduct.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee set a hearing for Feb. 15 to hear evidence on the allegations filed in a motion last week by defense attorney Ashleigh Merchant, who represents Michael Roman, a former Trump 2020 campaign staffer and onetime White House aide. Roman is one of the 19 people charged in the indictment brought by Willis.
The filing alleges that Willis was involved in an improper romantic relationship with Nathan Wade, the lawyer she hired, and it questions Wade’s qualifications for the job. Wade was a municipal judge before being hired as part of the prosecution team against Trump, and he had a private practice focused on family law and contract disputes, The Hill reported.
Merchant wrote in her motion last week that Wade has been paid large sums and has used some of his earnings to take Willis on vacation to Napa Valley, Florida, and the Caribbean. She said that amounts to the pair “profiting significantly from this prosecution at the expense of the taxpayers.”
According to records reviewed by WXIA-TV, Wade was paid over half a million dollars more than the other two special prosecutors working on the case between 2022 and 2023.
The defense attorney’s filing offered no proof of the alleged relationship or trips that she said Willis and Wade had taken together. She mentioned “sources close” to Willis and Wade without elaborating.
She also alleges Willis did not get the necessary approval from county leaders to hire Wade and that no special prosecutor’s oath had been filed for him.
Merchant also questioned Wade’s qualifications to try the case saying she can find no evidence that Wade — whose law firm website touts his experience in civil litigation, including car accident and family law cases — has ever prosecuted a felony case.
The motion seeks to have the indictment dismissed and to disqualify Willis and Wade and their offices from further prosecuting the case.
Willis’ office has said they will respond to Merchant’s motion in a court filing but have not provided a timeline for the response.
More than a week after the allegations of an inappropriate relationship surfaced, Willis has not denied the claims, and neither has Wade, The Hill reported.
On Thursday, Willis accused Wade’s estranged wife Joycelyn Wade of trying to obstruct her criminal election interference case against Trump and the other defendants by seeking to question her in the couple’s divorce proceedings. A lawyer for Willis wrote in a filing that lawyers for Joycelyn Wade served a subpoena to the district attorney last week.
The filing claims the subpoena is being sought “in an attempt to harass and damage” Willis’ professional reputation and accuses Joycelyn Wade of having “conspired with interested parties in the criminal Election Interference Case to use the civil discovery process to annoy, embarrass, and oppress” the district attorney.
The attempt to question Willis is “obstructing and interfering” with an ongoing criminal case, lawyer Cinque Axam wrote in the court filing Thursday seeking to quash the subpoena.
The district attorney’s lawyer wrote that Nathan and Joycelyn Wade have been separated for more than two years and are involved in “an uncontested no-fault divorce” and there is an “absence of any relevant basis” to question Willis.
Willis’ filing on Thursday does not address whether she and Wade have been romantically involved.
Andrea Hastings, a lawyer for Joycelyn Wade, said they want to help her “resolve her divorce fairly and privately” and that any response to Willis’ motion will come in a filing with the court.
Roman’s defense attorney’s motion also mentioned that filings in Wade’s pending divorce are sealed but that she has filed a motion to unseal them. Multiple news outlets filed a motion Tuesday to gain access to those filings.
“Ms. Willis alleges that her deposition is being sought in an attempt to harass and damage her professional reputation. Why would her truthful testimony risk damaging her reputation?” Merchant wrote in an email Thursday.
She accused Willis of trying “to create a conspiracy where none exists,” noting that she filed her motion on the deadline for pretrial motions in the election case.
“We believe her filing in Cobb County is just another attempt to avoid having to directly answer the important questions Mr. Roman has raised,” Merchant wrote.
Willis did not address the allegations of an improper relationship during a speech Sunday at Atlanta’s historic Big Bethel A.M.E. Church.
She said she hired three special prosecutors for the election case: a White man, a White woman, and a Black man. They are paid the same hourly rate and no one has questioned the qualifications of the two White lawyers, she said.
While never mentioning Nathan Wade by name, she called him a “superstar, a great friend, and a great lawyer.” She cited his accomplishments and past professional experience.
She did not speak to reporters after the service.
As CBN News reported in August, a Fulton County grand jury indicted Trump and 18 other people.
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