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(Daily Caller)—Allegations about District Attorney Fani Willis’ “improper” relationship with the special prosecutor could have serious ramifications for her racketeering case against former President Donald Trump, legal experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The attorney for a Trump co-defendant filed a motion Monday alleging Willis not only hired the man she was romantically involved with, Nathan Wade, as special prosecutor in her racketeering case against Trump, but also signed off on “lucrative” compensation that exceeded her own salary, which Wade in turn used to finance cruises and vacations he took with Willis. The allegations are serious and could potentially undermine the case, legal experts told the DCNF.
“The motion paints a picture of a prosecution that has a structural problem,” Georgia-based criminal defense attorney and legal analyst Philip Holloway told the DCNF. “It’s basically built upon using a special prosecutor who, if this turns out to be true, was not appointed and hired, if you will, in the correct legal way.”
Willis, who allegedly did not obtain permission from Fulton County to hire a special prosecutor, used funds she lobbied for to clear a backlog of cases that stacked up during Covid to contract with Wade, according to the filing made on behalf of co-defendant Michael Roman.
“When you put all this together, it amounts to a bad faith use of her authority as district attorney,” Holloway told the Daily Caller News Foundation, adding this could culminate in a due process violation that “will justify not only disqualifying her, but potentially having the entire case dismissed.”
Regardless, Holloway said it could take months for the process to play out and “certainly is going to kick the case out, to a minimum, sometime in 2025.”
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Wade has been paid nearly $1,000,000 in legal fees since he was appointed, according to the motion.
The motion alleges the couple traveled to such places as Napa Valley, California, Florida and the Caribbean. Wade also allegedly “purchased tickets for both of them to travel on both the [Norwegian] and Royal Caribbean cruise lines.”
“If true, this would not only be a gross display of unethical conduct and horrific professional judgment, but it would also subject Ms. Willis to potential criminal charges of receiving kickbacks from a paid contractor and theft of honest services,” John Malcolm, vice president for the Heritage Foundation’s Institute for Constitutional Government and former deputy assistant attorney general in the DOJ’s Criminal Division, told the DCNF. “If the court’s inquiry substantiates these allegations, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office should be disqualified from continuing its involvement in the case and the matter should be referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution and to the Georgia Bar for disciplinary proceedings.”
Emory University School of Law Professor Jonathan Nash told the DCNF that it is “premature to say where this might lead.”
“For one thing, the motion provides no actual evidence of either an inappropriate personal relationship between Willis and Wade, or any improper financial relationship,” he said.
“The issues raised in Michael Roman’s motion are serious, and Scott McAfee – the Fulton County Superior Court Judge assigned to the case – should conduct a thorough inquiry,” Malcolm said.
The filing does not provide concrete evidence, instead stating that “sources close to both the special prosecutor and the district attorney have confirmed they had an ongoing, personal relationship.” Ashleigh Merchant, Roman’s lawyer, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she reviewed the case file for Wade’s divorce proceedings, which the motion explains were later sealed.
A spokesperson for Willis told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Monday that the district attorney will answer the allegations “through appropriate court filings.”
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Ultimately, the allegations necessitate a hearing before McAfee, where Merchant will have to prove the motion’s claims, Holloway said. “I’ve known this lawyer for at least 20 years, and she is known to be very thorough,” he told the DCNF.
Willis’ personal entanglements are just one piece of the puzzle. Wade’s billing statements included in the motion reference two meetings with Biden’s White House before the indictment.
If nothing else, this adds “gasoline to the fire” accusing Willis of prosecuting the former president for partisan reasons, Holloway told the DCNF.
The House Judiciary Committee launched an investigation into Willis in August to determine whether she coordinated with Biden’s Department of Justice when bringing charges against Trump. Willis shot back in a September letter to Chairman Jim Jordan that his intrusion into Georgia’s sovereignty is “offensive and will not stand,” claiming he “lack[s] a basic understanding of the law.”
“We are aware of these damning allegations and are looking into all avenues as to what comes next,” Russell Dye, spokesperson for Jordan, told the DCNF.
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