Fulton Judge in Trump Case: Fani Willis Can Stay if Nathan Wade Leaves

March 15, 2024
1 min read
Fulton Judge in Trump Case: Fani Willis Can Stay if Nathan Wade Leaves

A Fulton County Superior Court judge ruled Friday that Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis may continue prosecuting the election interference case against former President Donald Trump.

However, Willis may remain only if Nathan Wade, the special prosecutor she hired to handle the case , steps down, Judge Scott McAfee declared in a 23-page ruling.

McAfee found that a romantic relationship between Willis and Wade did not constitute an actual conflict of interest, as lawyers for Trump and seven of his codefendants alleged. But the judge ruled the relationship responsible for an “appearance of impropriety.”

“Whether this case ends in convictions, acquittals, or something in between, the result should be one that instills confidence in the process,” McAfee wrote toward the end of the ruling.

“A reasonable observer unburdened by partisan blinders should believe the law was impartially applied, that those accused of crimes had a fair opportunity to present their defenses, and that any verdict was based on our criminal justice system’s best efforts at ascertaining the truth. Any distractions that detract from these goals … should be proportionally addressed.”

Willis’ romantic relationship with Wade was made public in a motion filed in January by a lawyer for Michael Roman, a Trump campaign official charged with the former president and 18 others with participating in a conspiracy to overturn Georgia’s 2020 presidential election.

The motion sought to disqualify Willis from the case because of the relationship and alleged financial benefits she received from Wade, including several trips they took together.

Willis acknowledged the relationship but argued it did not constitute grounds for her removal. At an evidentiary hearing before McAfee two weeks ago, both Willis and Wade testified she reimbursed him with cash to pay for her share of the trips.

In Friday’s ruling, McAfee found the defendants failed to meet their burden of proof of an actual conflict of interest. But he wrote that the appearance of a conflict was enough to infect “the current structure of the prosecution team.” In doing so, he gave Willis two options.

“The District Attorney may choose to step aside, along with the whole of her office, and refer the prosecution to the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council for reassignment,” McAfee wrote.

“Alternatively … Wade can withdraw, allowing the District Attorney, the Defendants, and the public to move forward without his presence or remuneration distracting from and potentially compromising the merits of this case.”

Friday’s ruling came two days after McAfee dismissed six of the 41 counts against Trump and several co-defendants. The judge declared the charges legally defective, including the count accusing Trump of pressuring Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” the 11,780 additional votes he needed to carry Georgia over Democrat Joe Biden.

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