WATCH LIVE: Fani Willis hearing to remove Trump from Georgia case


Atlanta – Former President Donald Trump and several of his co-defendants are being arraigned Friday on trial Georgia election interference case To disqualify Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and her office over allegations that Willis was in a romantic relationship with Special Prosecutor Nathan Wade.

The proceedings before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee end a series of extraordinary hearings held after Michael Roman, a longtime GOP operative with ties to Trump, was charged. charged in january That Willis and Wade had an “inappropriate” romantic relationship, and that the district attorney benefited financially from it.

Trump and several others joined Roman's effort to disqualify Willis, Wade and his office from prosecuting the fraud case against him. They are demanding dismissal of the charges against them.

“If this court allows this type of behavior to continue and by its order allows DAs across the state to engage in these types of activities, the entire public's confidence in the system will be eroded and the integrity of the system will be eroded.” Will become weak.” said defense attorney John Merchant, who represented Roman.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis testifies during a hearing in Atlanta on February 15, 2024.

Alyssa Pointer/Getty Images


Roman claimed that the relationship between Wade and Willis began in early November 2021, before he was appointed as a special prosecutor in the case against Trump. admitted in a court filing They definitely had a personal relationship, but said it started in 2022.

both willis and wade Testimony given during the hearing last month and revealed personal details about their relationship, financial matters and trips to places like Napa Valley, Belize and Aruba. During several hours on the witness stand, Willis defended himself against allegations that he acted improperly and benefited financially from Wade's appointment.

Defense attorneys claimed that Wade paid for the hotel room, cruise, and getaway, although both prosecutors said they split the costs associated with their travel and that Willis often reimbursed Wade in cash. To demonstrate that Willis typically used cash to cover expenses, prosecutors on Tuesday filed an affidavit from Stan Brody, who worked at a winery in Napa. He and Wade came last year, Brody claimed that Willis paid $400 in cash for two bottles of wine and a tasting.

The district attorney had accused Roman's lawyer Ashley Merchant of spreading lies and “defamatory” rumors.

“You're intruding into people's personal lives,” Willis said during his testimony on Feb. 16. I'm not on trial, no matter how hard you try to prosecute me.”

friday hearing

Fulton County Superior Judge Scott McAfee presides during closing arguments in the disqualification hearing for District Attorney Fani Willis at the Fulton County Courthouse on March 1, 2024 in Atlanta.

Alex Schlitz/Pool/AFP via Getty Images


During his presentation, John Merchant accused Willis of developing a financial interest in the case in violation of rules of professional conduct, which “created the appearance of impropriety by establishing a prosecutorial relationship with her boyfriend, with whom she had been dating for two years.” Was dating.” to bear witness.”

Although Wade and Willis testified that they split the expenses related to their trips, Merchant said that Willis received approximately $9,200 in profits that could not be accounted for. He accused the district attorney of “deliberately” devising a scheme to benefit Wade.

“She put her boyfriend on the spot, paid him, and they took advantage of it,” Merchant said. “He created the system and then didn't tell anyone about it.”

He said that if McAfee finds that Wade and Willis' relationship began in 2019 – nearly two years before his appointment as special prosecutor – and that Wade's appointment was inappropriate, then the onus would be on Trump and his co-defendants. The accuser weakens the case.

Steve Sado, who is representing Trump, and Craig Gillen, another defense attorney, both accused Willis of engaging in misconduct when she gave a speech at Big Bethel AME Church in January, shortly after allegations about her relationship with Wade became public. after. Although Willis did not name Wade, he defended her qualifications and suggested that racism was behind the claims.

Gillen and Sadow said the speech was designed to prejudice potential jurors against the defendants.

Gillen said, “He decided to instill race into the minds of the audience and virtually all people in this community and virtually all people in this country have reviewed and analyzed the speech that he gave in a pre-determined way “

relationship timeline

The timeline of Willis and Wade's relationship has emerged as a key issue in the effort to get the District Attorney and his office out of the case. Willis' former longtime friend, Robin Yearty, claimed that the relationship with Wade predates his appointment on November 1, 2021. Eartie testified that she saw the couple being affectionate with each other.

Fulton County Special Prosecutor Nathan Wade raises his hand during a hearing in Atlanta on February 15, 2024.

Alyssa Pointer/Reuters


Defense attorneys asked Wade's former law partner and divorce attorney Terrence Bradley about the relationship between the two prosecutors before filing a motion exposing his communications with Wade and his private dealings with Merchant. Also inquired about text messages sent by.

After claiming attorney-client privilege testify twice Last month, Bradley was called back to the stand at Wednesday's hearing. He said he was “speculating” when he told Merchant in a message that the relationship between Wade and Willis began before Wade's appointment. Bradley repeatedly said he had no direct knowledge of when it began.

Prosecutors tried to discredit both Bradley and Yearty. She revealed during an evidentiary hearing last month that Bradley left the company she shared with Wade after she was accused of sexual harassment. Bradley vehemently denied the allegation and said earlier this week that he had not spoken to Wade in more than a year.

Lawyers with the district attorney's office also said Yearty left her job on poor terms, because she was told she could either resign or be fired. Willis testified last month that she had not spoken to Eartie in more than a year, and said she had “betrayed” their friendship.

It's unclear when McAfee will decide whether to remove Willis and her office from the Trump-related case, but the controversy over her romantic relationship with Wade has cast a shadow over prosecutors and derailed the case for weeks. Have given. Trump and his allies are accused of alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. many original co-defendant passed took plea deals, While the remaining defendants have everything pleaded not guilty,

Before Friday's hearing, there was a long-running dispute over the evidence both sides sought to admit. Defense attorneys want McAfee to admit Wade's cellphone data into evidence, which they claim shows he drove to the condo he rented from Eartie in Hapeville, south of Atlanta, at least three dozen times in 2021. Willis was around. He testified about location data from Wade's phone that showed he was near Willis's condo during late night and early morning hours in the months before he was tapped as special prosecutor.

Prosecutors also have said that Brody, who worked at the Napa winery where Wade and Willis visited, is available to testify Friday if the court refuses to accept his affidavit.

McAfee said at the beginning of the hearing that he was prepared to hear the legal arguments already presented by prosecutors and defense attorneys and said he might be able to make a decision without the cellphone records and Broidy's testimony. The judge did not rule out further proceedings to admit additional information.


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