Fannie Willis: Judge considers removing Georgia prosecutor from Trump case

  • By Madeline Halbert
  • BBC News, New York

image source, Good pictures

image caption,

Fannie Willis has admitted to having a personal relationship with Nathan Wade (center), the attorney she hired to prosecute Trump.

A judge on Thursday will weigh allegations of misconduct against the Georgia attorney leading the election-subversion case against Donald Trump.

One of Mr Trump's co-defendants is Fulton County District Attorney Fannie Willis who alleges an improper relationship with a top lawyer he hired.

Judge Scott McAfee said Ms Willis could be disqualified from the case if evidence supported the claims.

He admitted to the relationship but denied it was immoral.

Ms. Willis, Fulton County's first female district attorney, last year accused Mr. Trump and 18 co-defendants of conspiring to overturn the former president's loss to Joe Biden in the 2020 Georgia state election.

Mr Trump faces 13 felony counts, including charges of pressuring Georgia officials and a scheme to use fake election officials to fraudulently certify his victory.

But the high-profile fraud case is mired in counter-claims of wrongdoing against Ms Willis.

Earlier this year, co-defendant Michael Roman filed a motion to dismiss his charges and remove him from the case.

He alleged that he personally benefited from his relationship with one of his leading attorneys, Nathan Wade.

image source, Good pictures

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Judge McAfee said Ms. Willis could be removed from the case

Mr Roman claims that Ms Willis was overpaid for the role of Mr Wade and that the two took luxury holidays together, which Mr Wade paid for.

In legal filings, Ms. Willis acknowledged that she and Mr. Wade had developed a “personal relationship” but denied that it affected the election case.

The couple have said they split travel expenses equally and their affair began in 2022 after Mr Wade was appointed special counsel on Trump operations.

But Mr. Roman said in a court filing last week that he had a witness who could refute those claims: Mr. Wade's former divorce lawyer, Terrence Bradley.

Mr Bradley will take the stand.

image source, Fulton County Sheriff's Office

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Police booking photo of Michael Roman

Judge McAfee has set aside Thursday and Friday for the hearing.

He said it would focus on several questions: when Ms Willis and Mr Wade's relationship began, whether it was still ongoing, and whether there was any financial conflict.

The judge did not rule on whether Ms Willis and Mr Wade should testify.

Experts who spoke to the BBC agreed the pair's romantic relationship was imprudent, but said it was unlikely to lift the case.

Niama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor, said Ms Willis's worst case scenario would be her disqualification.

Prosecutors from the Fulton County District Attorney's Office or the Georgia Attorney General's Office will take over, he said.

“Willis' alleged transgressions, while silly and embarrassing, do not affect the merits of the Trump case,” Mr Rahmani said. “It's more of a public relations failure than anything else.”

Anthony Michael Gries, a professor at Georgia State University College of Law, said the legal threshold for successfully removing Willis and his office from the case is high.

But he said it would be a major blow to the prosecution if Ms Willis was expelled.

“A disqualification poses a real threat to the work done by the Fulton County DA's office,” he said.

In that scenario, “experiments can continue without significant changes in strategy,” he said. “Or the new prosecutor could make light plea deals or drop the effort altogether.”

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