Fani Willis Pushes to Cancel Hearing as More Than a Dozen Subpoenaed to Testify

District Attorney faces accusations of using public funding improperly and personally benefitting financially through hiring a lawyer.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis filed a lengthy response to the allegations lodged by Trump co-defendants, arguing no evidentiary hearing should be held in response to the defendants’ “salacious” allegations in the “meritless” motions to dismiss the high-profile election case.

In the 176-page filing, Ms. Willis affirms that she and special prosecutor Nathan Wade have had a personal relationship, and rejects the claim of a conflict of interest that would disqualify Ms. Willis or Mr. Wade from the case.

Mr. Wade has played a leading role in the election case and also led the special purpose grand jury proceedings that led to the indictment last year.

Ms. Willis, Mr. Wade, and Mr. Wade’s current and former law partners, as well as eight employees from Ms. Willis’s team, have been subpoenaed to testify at the Feb. 15 hearing, after which a judge will determine whether the district attorney should be disqualified and removed from the case.

Co-defendant Michael Roman, a GOP strategist who participated in the 2020 Trump campaign, first made the allegations in a motion to dismiss the indictment and disqualify the district attorney on Jan. 8.

Defendants Robert Cheeley, an attorney, and former President Donald Trump later joined the motion.

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Mr. Roman alleged Ms. Willis used public funding improperly, including pulling funds meant to clear COVID-era backlogs to pursue the racketeering case and personally benefitting financially through hiring an attorney, Mr. Wade, as special prosecutor, when she had a romantic extramarital affair with him and that the two took multiple “lavish” vacations together.

His attorney also cited reports that Ms. Willis contracted publicity services shortly before the indictment to track media mentions.

He had argued that an alleged pattern of financial misconduct and financial conflict of interest disqualified Ms. Willis and her team, and therefore the indictment should be dismissed.

The district attorney is arguing that there is no basis for disqualification, as she paid for Mr. Wade’s travel expenses as well, defended her statements about race, and pushed to cancel the upcoming hearing.

Subpoenas Ahead of Feb. 15 Hearing

The subpoenas arose out of an ability to obtain material needed to prepare Mr. Roman’s defense, according to a lawsuit filed by his attorney Ashleigh Merchant.

The district attorney is arguing that the subpoenas amount to an “incredibly inappropriate” intrusion into opposing counsel’s personal life, noting that a lawyer who represented Mr. Wade in his divorce case was among those subpoenaed to testify.

With the vast number of witnesses, the district attorney is accusing defendants of setting up a “circus” of a hearing “that would last days, garner more breathless media coverage, and intrude further into the personal lives of the prosecution team in an effort to embarrass and harass the district attorney personally.”

The prosecutors stated their intention to quash the subpoenas and asked the court to deny the motion “without further spectacle,” including canceling any hearing on the matter.

Attorney Explains Relationship

The response includes a sworn affidavit by Mr. Wade, in which he explains that he met Ms. Willis in 2019 in a professional capacity, and it wasn’t until 2022 that they had a “personal relationship.”

In 2020, he served on Ms. Willis’s transition team, and in the spring of 2021, he was hired as to help hire an attorney to lead the investigation into the 2020 elections.

He states that the $250 rate was the highest the district attorney’s office was able to offer, and it was “significantly less” than market rate; he had charged $550 per hour for a previous government job.

He also noted that the county caps the number of hours he is able to bill, and his private practice continues to generate revenue.

Mr. Wade said that the attorneys interviewed hesitated to take the case concerned about “violent rhetoric and potential safety issues for their families” and in September 2021 he was approached with the special prosecutor position.

He refused at first due to other work, but agreed a month later and resigned from his judicial appointments to take on “the unique professional challenge this case presented.”

Then in 2022, “District Attorney Willis and I developed a personal relationship in addition to our professional association and friendship.”

He states that Ms. Willis “received no funds or personal financial gain” from his own position as special prosecutor, and he never cohabited, shared household expenses, or shared a joint financial account with Ms. Willis.

Mr. Wade affirmed the trips cited in Mr. Roman’s motion and later spotlighted in his divorce case as well.

“At times I have made and purchased travel for District Attorney Willis and myself from my personal funds,” he wrote, adding that expenses were generally equally divided, and attaching financial records of purchases Ms. Willis made with Mr. Wade’s name.

“At other times District Attorney Willis has made and purchased travel for she and I from her personal funds.”

The district attorney argued that grounds for disqualification fall into two camps, forensic misconduct and conflict of interest and that neither of these applies.

“Instead, the 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. The effort must fail,” the response reads.

Mr. Roman’s motion to dismiss notably did not provide any evidence for the alleged relationship between Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade, though he later told reporters he had witnesses ready to testify on this point.

Steve Sadow, attorney for President Trump, had voiced his intention to delay joining the motion until more information came out.

He later joined, filing a brief motion that focused on Ms. Willis’s public statements injecting “racial animus” into the proceedings and prejudicing the public against the defendants.

In the response, prosecutors argue that conflict of interest would require that the prosecutor previously represented the defendant, has a personal interest or stake in the outcome of the prosecution, has a relationship with the victim of a crime, or is herself a witness providing evidence that would incriminate the defendants.

The district attorney also countered arguments that she used funding to garner media attention by arguing that she has also received negative publicity and threats, and “this fuzzy concept of personal or financial interest via media attention advanced by defendants is simply not a definition that has ever been recognized by Georgia law.”

Ms. Willis argued that she “did not go looking for this case” and claimed the motions to dismiss were based on “guesswork.”

The district attorney also defended the hiring of Mr. Wade after defendants Mr. Roman and Mr. Cheeley raised objections to his qualifications to serve as special prosecutor, citing his resume, which Mr. Wade summarizes in his affidavit.

DA Defends Race Comments

The district attorney argued that President Trump’s motion to disqualify was “transparently meritless,” as there was “no violation of any ethical rule.”

During a speech at an Atlanta church, she claimed that the critics who had seized on her relationship with Mr. Wade were racially animated because they only questioned the black prosecutor she hired and not the others.

Attorneys for President Trump argued in a motion that during the lengthy speech, she made “provocative and inflammatory extrajudicial racial comments … cloaked in repeated references to God.”

State ethics guidelines require prosecutors to avoid the “appearance of impropriety,” defense attorneys argued she had done the opposite and instead “amplified” that appearance of impropriety with her speech.

The district attorney argued that the jury questioning process will evaluate whether prospective jurors have been impacted by public statements, and therefore the motion should be dismissed.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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