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Court filing discloses personal relationship between Fani Willis and prosecutor hired in Trump case

In World
February 02, 2024

ATLANTA (AP) — A court filing Friday discloses that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is involved in a “personal relationship” with a special prosecutor she hired for the Georgia election interference case against former President Donald Trump, but she argues there are no grounds to dismiss the case or to remove her from the prosecution.

Willis hired special prosecutor Nathan Wade in November 2021 to assist her investigation into whether the Republican ex-president and others broke any laws as they tried to overturn his loss in the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. Since Trump and 18 others were indicted in August, Wade has led the team of lawyers Willis assembled to prosecute the case.

In an affidavit accompanying the filing, Wade said that in 2022, he and the district attorney had developed a personal relationship in addition to their “professional association and friendship.”

But he also said that he had never lived with Willis or shared a financial account or household expenses with her. He said that none of the funds paid to him as part of the job have been shared with Willis, an attempt to undercut defense lawyer claims of a conflict of interest.

Wade described himself and Willis as “both financially independent professionals; expenses or personal travel were roughly divided equally between us.”

“At times,” Wade said, “I have made and purchased travel for District Attorney Willis and myself from my personal funds. At other times District Attorney Willis has made and purchased travel for she and I from her personal funds.”

“I have no financial interest in the outcome of the 2020 election interference case or in the conviction of any defendant,” he wrote.

The Friday filing by Willis’ team came in response to a motion filed last month by defense attorney Ashleigh Merchant, who represents Trump co-defendant Michael Roman. The motion alleged that Willis and Wade were in an inappropriate romantic relationship that created a conflict of interest. The filing seeks to dismiss the case and to have Willis and Wade and their offices barred from further prosecuting the case.

Trump and at least one other co-defendant, Georgia attorney Robert Cheeley, have filed motions to join Roman’s effort to dismiss the indictment and remove Willis from the case.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who’s presiding over the election case, has set a Feb. 15 hearing on Roman’s motion. Willis and Wade are among a dozen witnesses Merchant has subpoenaed to testify at that hearing.

The Friday filing asks McAfee to dismiss Roman’s motion without a hearing.

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Associated Press writers Eric Tucker in Washington and Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston contributed.

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