Filing from DA in Trump case admits 'personal relationship' with prosecutor but denies wrongdoing

The rebuttal came in a 176-page court filing Friday.

February 2, 2024, 5:48 PM

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis on Friday pushed back on allegations of misconduct after she was accused of financially benefiting from a relationship with one of the prosecutors on her Georgia election interference case.

In a 176-page court filing, Willis claimed she has "no financial conflict of interest that constitutes a legal bases for disqualification" from the case and that she has "no personal conflict of interest" that would justify her or the office's dismissal.

The filing, which marked the first time the office has officially responded to the allegations in court, included a sworn affidavit from prosecutor Nathan Wade in which he said that in 2022 he and Willis "developed a personal relationship in addition to our professional association and friendship."

However, the filing said "any personal relationship among members of the prosecution team does not amount to a disqualifying conflict of interest or otherwise harm a criminal defendant."

The filing claimed such a relationship would not matter to the case and called for the judge to reject the motions to disqualify her and dismiss the indictment.

Michael Roman, one of former President Donald Trump's 18 co-defendants in the Georgia election interference case, is seeking to dismiss the indictment against him and disqualify Willis from the case on the grounds that she allegedly committed "an act to defraud the public of honest services" based on her alleged relationship with Wade, which Roman says she "personally benefitted from."

Willis and Wade have been subpoenaed to testify in a Feb. 15 evidentiary hearing that the judge in the election interference case scheduled to examine the allegations against them, but the DA in her filing has asked the judge to deny the motions from the defendants and essentially cancel the hearing, claiming that "no further factual development is necessary."

PHOTO: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks during a news conference at the Fulton County Government building, Aug. 14, 2023, in Atlanta.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks during a news conference at the Fulton County Government building, Aug. 14, 2023, in Atlanta.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The filing claimed that the dozen subpoenas issued by Roman's attorney for the hearing include multiple individuals who have no knowledge of the matter, and amount to a "ticket to the circus" that would "intrude even further into the personal lives of the prosecution team in an effort to embarrass and harass the District Attorney personally."

"The State respectfully asks that, after consideration of the Wade Affidavit and other submitted exhibits, the motions be denied without further spectacle," the filing said.

Wade's affidavit, included in the DA's filing, pushed back on allegations that Willis profited financially from the election case, saying that his relationship with Willis started after he was hired, that he had "no financial interest" in the outcome of the case, and that "no funds paid to me in compensations for my role as Special Prosecutor have been shared with or provided to District Attorney Willis."

The affidavit also said personal travel expenses were "roughly divided equally" between them.

"The District Attorney received no funds or personal financial gain from my position as Special Prosecutor," the affidavit stated.

The filing also pushed back on allegations that Wade was overpaid for his work, a key part of Roman's claims.

"Special Prosecutor Wade made much more money than the other special prosecutors only because Wade did much more work," the filing said.

The filing said Wade and Willis have no shared finances or bank account, never shared a household, and have "no financial dependency or merging of daily expenses."

Roman's attorney, in a subsequent filing late Friday afternoon, claimed that some of the assertions in Willis' filing were false, and asked the judge to keep the Feb. 15 hearing as scheduled so as not to "deny Mr. Roman the right to cross-examine her."

"If they had nothing to hide in the first place because they did nothing wrong, then why did they intentionally not tell anyone about it until they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar?" the filing from Roman's attorney, Ashleigh Merchant, stated. "This highlights the very reason why this Court cannot just take their word for it."

Merchant's filing disputes Willis' claim that she and Wade never cohabitated, saying there are witnesses who will testify that they cohabitated at Willis' home, at the apartment of one of Willis' friends, and then at an AirBnB -- and that "Wade and Willis' personal relationship began before his appointment as a special prosecutor," the filing said.

"In other words, they have knowledge that the assertion by Willis in the State's response and in Wade's affidavit are both false," the filing states. "This is the reason Mr. Roman is entitled to cross-examine the State's witnesses, including Willis and Wade, on these material facts going to the heart of the issue of whether they should be disqualified."

Trump, Roman, and 17 others pleaded not guilty in August to all charges in a sweeping racketeering indictment for alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the state of Georgia.

Defendants Kenneth Chesebro, Sidney Powell, Jenna Ellis and Scott Hall subsequently took plea deals in exchange for agreeing to testify against other defendants.

Responding to Willis' filing, Trump's attorney said that "nothing has changed" and that he will still seek to have the case dismissed.

"The Fulton County DA's response asks the Court to turn a blind eye to her alleged personal and financial misconduct. While the DA admits to an intimate relationship with her employee Special Asst. DA Wade, she fails to provide full transparency and necessary financial details," said Steve Sadow, Trump's lead defense counsel in the Georgia case. "Our requested remedy remains clear: dismiss the case and disqualify the DA, together with her team and office, from any related matters."

Writing on his social media platform, Trump said the admission of the relationship means the Georgia case against him is "totally discredited."

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