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Judge in Trump's Georgia election case targets February for hearing on Fani Willis allegations

Willis is accused of having a romantic relationship with one of her prosecutors.

January 12, 2024, 12:10 PM

The judge in Fulton County DA Fani Willis' Georgia election interference case against Donald Trump told attorneys Friday there will likely be a hearing in early February, at the earliest, to address allegations filed against Willis accusing her of having an inappropriate relationship with a special prosecutor on her team.

Fulton County Judge Scott McAfee made the comments after an attorney for Trump brought up the allegations during a hearing Friday to hear motions from several defendants in the election case.

Defendant Michael Roman, a former Trump campaign staffer, previously filed a motion Monday seeking to dismiss the charges against him, alleging that Willis "engaged in a personal, romantic relationship" with prosecutor Nathan Wade, which allegedly resulted in financial gain for both of them.

"So obviously my plan with this was to allow the state an opportunity to respond before setting a hearing date," Judge McAfee said Friday. "Early February would be the soonest that would be happen."

A spokesperson for the DA's office previously said they would respond to the allegations "through appropriate court filings."

Trump attorney Steve Sadow said Trump's legal team was considering adopting the motion regarding what he called the "salacious and scandalous" allegations, but wanted to first get a "better understanding or substantiation" of the claims -- while noting they had no information to support the allegations.

"I don't have a factual background that I can state to the court that supports that at this point," Sadow said. "I'm leery of moving to adopt motions that make such allegations without having a better understanding or substantiation of the allegations."

PHOTO: Judge Scott McAfee listens as an attorney speaks during a motions hearing for former President Trump's election interference case at the Lewis R. Slaton Courthouse, in Atlanta, Jan. 12, 2024.
Judge Scott McAfee listens as an attorney speaks during a motions hearing for former President Trump's election interference case at the Lewis R. Slaton Courthouse, in Atlanta, Jan. 12, 2024.
Elijah Nouvelage/Pool via Reuters

The judge said the hearing in February should give Sadow enough of time to consider if he wanted to adopt the motion.

Willis, meanwhile, has been subpoenaed as part of Wade's divorce proceedings, according to a court filing in a separate case that was obtained by ABC News.

The filing alleged that Wills and Wade's relationship began "while Wade was married" and that he filed for divorce "a day after his first contract with Willis commenced."

Friday's hearing came on the same day that the GOP-led House Judiciary Committee announced an investigation of Wade, with committee Chairman Jim Jordan sending him a letter requesting communications and documents related to "the coordination of the Fulton County District Attorney's Office with other politically motivated investigations and prosecutions and the potential misuse of federal funds."

Attorneys at Friday's hearing in Georgia also appeared to resolve a motion from Trump's lawyers seeking communications between the DA's office and the House select Jan. 6 committee, when prosecutors confirmed in court that they had turned over all such records as part of discovery in the case.

Trump's legal team had sought the communications based on a December 2021 letter that was sent from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to then-committee Chairman Bennie Thompson seeking "access to records that may be relevant to our investigation" -- which prompted Trump's attorneys to raise questions about possible cooperation between the two investigators.

Trump's attorney had filed a motion seeking access to any records the committee had provided, saying that Willis' office has "steadfastly refused to answer yes or no" to the question of whether they received anything back from the committee.

"There is nothing that we received from Jan. 6 that has not been turned over to all defense attorneys," prosecutor Daysha Young said in response, at Friday's hearing.

Trump and 18 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.

Wade confirmed at Friday's hearing that members of the district attorney's office did, in fact, meet with investigators from the Jan. 6 committee, but said that "there was no sharing of tangible documents," and that whatever they reviewed has since been made public as part of the committee's public report.

"We don't have anything that they hadn't released publicly," Wade said.

Prosecutors, however, refused to hand over notes from that meeting, claiming the materials are protected as an attorney work product.

Trump attorney Steve Sadow briefly expressed frustration that he had to file the motion in order to get the information he was seeking from the DA's office, calling it "troublesome."

"It doesn't make a whole lot of sense," he said.

Wade said the DA did not respond to Sadow's emails on the issue because his "tone" made them think they had missed something, leading them to "search, search, and double-search" for any emails from Thompson that may have been responsive.

"Even as late as last evening, we reached out to Chairman Thompson to make certain that he didn't send over a response and we just missed it or didn't receive it," Wade said.

Judge McAfee appeared to accept Wade's reasoning, adding that the dispute could have likely been resolved by the parties over email.

Also at Friday's hearing, an attorney for Rudy Giuliani, Allyn Stockton, appeared to walk back a request from the former New York City mayor to "compel" interviews with the four co-defendants who pleaded guilty in the case, saying they would instead voluntarily sit for interviews with Giuliani's legal team.

Stockton, however, took issue with the DA's desire to be present for the interviews or to have them recorded in order to prevent possible witness intimidation.

"It wouldn't be proper for the state to be part of our investigation, just like we weren't part of theirs," Stockton said.

"The state can't deny you access to a witness, and they shouldn't be instructing their witnesses not to talk to you. But the ultimate decision rests with the witnesses themselves," said McAfee, who issued an order after the hearing that the state could only be present or record the interview at the request of the witness.

McAfee also heard arguments from co-defendants Bob Cheeley and Ray Smith seeking dismissal of their cases. An attorney for Cheeley argued that his client's charges are related to issues of "civil disobedience," which he said can't be covered in racketeering cases. Smith's attorney argued that the charges don't accurately outline his client's connection to the criminal enterprise alleged in the indictment.

"You have got to tell us, what is our connection and our relationship with one and other?" the attorney, Amanda Palmer, argued.

Co-defendant Trevian Kutti also appeared at the hearing remotely as her attorneys sought to withdraw from the case, leaving her without legal representation. The judge granted their request and advised Kutti "to seek out private counsel," warning he would not grant extensions in the case.

"That makes a lot of sense, yes," responded Kutti, confirming that she was seeking other options.

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