The judge overseeing Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis’ case against former President Donald Trump and numerous co-defendants has cautioned her about potential disqualification due to an alleged inappropriate relationship with a special prosecutor she enlisted for assistance.
Willis has been accused of maintaining an “improper” relationship with special prosecutor Nathan Wade, whom she selected to aid in prosecuting Trump in a wide-ranging racketeering case associated with the 2020 election.
Co-defendant Michael Roman initially leveled the accusations and contended that Willis’ alleged actions warranted her disqualification and the removal of her team from the case.
Willis, acknowledging a personal relationship with Wade but refuting any conflict of interest, requested the court to cancel the upcoming evidentiary hearing, as reported by Fox News.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee said during a hearing Monday when considering those motions, “In studying the law that’s been filed up to this point, I think it’s clear that disqualification can occur if evidence is produced demonstrating an actual conflict or the appearance of one. And the filings submitted on this issue so far have presented a conflict in the evidence that can’t be resolved as a matter of law.”
“Specifically looking at defendant Roman’s motion, it alleges a personal relationship that resulted in a financial benefit to the district attorney. And that is no longer a matter of complete speculation. The state has admitted a relationship existed. And so, what remains to be proven is the existence and extent of any financial benefit,” the judge said.
“So, because I think it’s possible that the facts alleged by the defendant could result in disqualification, I think an evidentiary hearing must occur to establish the record on those core allegations,” he added, Fox News reported.
The outlet added:
In legal filings last month, Roman alleged that Wade billed Fulton County for 24 hours of work on a single day in November 2021, shortly after being appointed as a special prosecutor, and that Willis financially benefited from her alleged lover’s padded taxpayer-funded salary by taking lavish vacations together on his dime.
According to the court documents, Wade, who has no RICO or felony prosecution experience, has billed taxpayers $654,000 since January 2022.
On Monday, McAfee said that “the particulars” of Wade’s legal experience will not be relevant in the upcoming evidentiary hearing on Feb. 15, adding, “in my mind, as long as a lawyer has a heartbeat and a bar card, that lawyer’s appointment standing alone is a matter within the District Attorney’s discretion.”
He further noted that the issues “at point” here are “whether a relationship existed, whether that relationship was romantic or non-romantic in nature, when it formed, and whether it continues. And that’s only relevant because it’s in combination with the question of the existence and extent of any personal benefit conveyed as a result of their relationship.”
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