HomePoliticsJudge hears closing arguments on removing Fani Willis from Trump case

Judge hears closing arguments on removing Fani Willis from Trump case

Atlanta — Closing arguments will start Friday in a bid by the former president Donald Trump and several of his co-defendants in the case Case of election interference in Georgia to disqualify Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and her office over allegations that Willis had a romantic relationship with Special Prosecutor Nathan Wade.

The proceedings before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee cap a series of extraordinary hearings held after Michael Roman, a longtime GOP operative indicted along with Trump, claimed 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 have Willis, Wade and her office disqualified from prosecuting the racketeering case against them. They want the charges against them dismissed.

Roman claimed that Wade and Willis’ relationship began before she hired him as a special prosecutor in the case against Trump in early November 2021. admitted in an official report that they did have a personal relationship, but said it started in 2022.

Both Willis and Wade testified during evidentiary hearings last month and revealed personal details about their relationship, financial matters and trips to places like Napa Valley, Belize and Aruba. Over several hours on the witness stand, Willis vigorously defended herself against accusations that she had acted improperly and benefited financially from Wade’s hiring.

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Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis takes the stand as a witness during a hearing on the Georgia election interference case, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Atlanta.  /Credit: Alyssa Pointer /AP

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis takes the stand as a witness during a hearing on the Georgia election interference case, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Atlanta. /Credit: Alyssa Pointer /AP

Defense attorneys alleged that Wade paid for hotel rooms, cruises and getaways, although both accusers said they shared the costs of their trips and that Willis often reimbursed Wade in cash. To show that Willis typically used cash to cover costs, prosecutors on Tuesday filed an affidavit from Stan Brody, who worked at a winery in Napa. she and Wade visited last year. Brody claimed Willis paid $400 cash for two bottles of wine and a tasting.

The prosecutor had accused Ashleigh Merchant, Roman’s lawyer, of spreading lies and “salacious” rumors.

“You invaded people’s personal lives,” Willis said during her Feb. 16 testimony. “You’re confused. You think I’m on trial. These people are on trial for trying to steal a 2020 election. I am not on trial no matter how hard you try to bring me to justice.”

The timeline surrounding Willis and Wade’s relationship has proven to be a key issue in the effort to kick the district attorney and her office off the case. Willis’ former boyfriend, Robin Yeartie, claimed the relationship with Wade predated his appointment on November 1, 2021. Yeartie testified that she witnessed the couple being affectionate with each other.

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Defense attorneys also questioned Terrence Bradley, Wade’s former partner and divorce attorney, about his communications with Wade and text messages he exchanged with Merchant about the relationship between the two accusers before she filed a motion exposing their private dealings .

After exercising attorney-client privilege while testify twice Last month, Bradley was called back to the stand during a hearing on Wednesday. He said he was “speculating” when he told Merchant in a message that Wade and Willis’ relationship began before Wade was hired. Bradley repeatedly said he had no direct knowledge of when it started.

Prosecutors attempted to discredit both Bradley and Yeartie. They revealed at the hearing last month that Bradley left the company he shared with Wade following an accusation of sexual assault. Bradley strongly denied the accusation and said earlier this week that he has not spoken to Wade in more than a year.

Lawyers with the district attorney’s office also said Yeartie left her job there on poor terms after being told she could resign or be fired. Willis testified last month that she hasn’t spoken to Yeartie in more than a year and said she “betrayed” their friendship.

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It’s unclear when McAfee will make a decision on whether to remove Willis and her office from the case involving Trump, but the controversy over her romantic relationship with Wade has cast a shadow over the prosecution and delayed the case for several weeks derail. Trump and his allies are being sued for allegedly trying to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. Multiple original co-suspects to have taken plead offers, while the other defendants have everything pleaded not guilty.

Ahead of Friday’s hearing, there are still disagreements over evidence that both sides have tried to admit. Defense attorneys want McAfee to admit Wade’s cellphone records into evidence, claiming they show he was near an apartment Willis rented from Yeartie in Hapeville, south of Atlanta, at least three dozen times in 2021. They said testimony about location data from Wade’s phone shows that he was near Willis’ apartment late at night and into the early morning hours in the months before he was tapped as special prosecutor.

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

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