Georgia judge hears final arguments in affair allegations against Fani Willis

Willis and her office are leading the sweeping racketeering case against former President Donald Trump

A Georgia state judge is hearing closing arguments today on allegations that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis' affair with special prosecutor Nathan Wade benefited her financially and should disqualify her from the case against former President Donald Trump. 

Willis and her office are leading the sweeping racketeering cases against the former president and 18 co-defendants. Several co-defendants, including Michael Roman, earlier this year accused Willis of hiring Wade while they were romantically involved and that she benefited from his government salary through lavish vacations they took together. 

Willis and Wade have both denied the allegations and have claimed their romantic involvement started after Wade was hired in 2021. Willis claimed in court testimony that she would always reimburse Wade for her portion of their shared travels in cash. There are no receipts for those reimbursements, and one witness claimed their relationship started as early as 2019. 

John Merchant, attorney for Roman, argued Friday that Georgia law is clear in that the judge should use the legal standard of an "appearance" of conflict being enough to disqualify Willis, and said that Wade was "part of the scheme she created intentionally in order to give benefits to her boyfriend."

The state is conversely arguing that the legal standard for disqualification is an actual conflict. After a brief break in the hearing, Fani Willis entered the courtroom, sitting next to lawyers representing the state. 


Fani Willis, Nathan Wade

Fani Willis, the district attorney for Fulton County, Georgia, previously said the allegations brought against her of having an "improper" romantic relationship with special prosecutor Nathan Wade were made because she is Black. (Getty Images)

Steve Sadow, attorney for Trump, argued that Wills' remarks in a church earlier this month insinuating the affair allegations were race-based were a "calculated determination" to "prejudice the defendants and their counsel."

Each side will have 90 minutes to present their case to the judge.

Before closing arguments began Friday, Judge Scott McAfee considered whether newly revealed text message data — allegedly showing that Wade visited Willis' private home at least 35 times before he was hired — should be admissible as evidence.

Wade testified last month that he did not visit Willis' condo more than 10 times before being hired in November 2021. Willis and Wade maintain that their relationship began in early 2022.

Cellphone data seems to show that Wade twice traveled to Willis' apartment late at night without leaving until the next morning. 

Wade and Willis have both testified that they did not sleep together at Willis' condo in Haperville.

The defense is trying to prove the existence and extent of any financial benefit to Willis from Wade from their relationship, which is the crux of their argument that Willis should be disqualified. 

Earlier this week, former law firm partner and divorce attorney Terrence Bradley testified under oath regarding what he knew about Willis and Wade's personal relationship. Bradley took the stand after McAfee determined Bradley could not claim attorney-client privilege.


Terrance Bradley testifies

Terrence Bradley, divorce lawyer and former law partner of Nathan Wade, testifies during a hearing into misconduct allegations against Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis at the Fulton County Courthouse on Feb. 27, 2024, in Atlanta. (Brynn Anderson/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Bradley, when pressed under oath, said he could not recall several details and timelines about conversations he had with former client Wade about Wade's romantic relationship with Willis.

Bradley said he could not recall key details or specific information more than two dozen times in the roughly two-hour testimony in Fulton County Superior Court on Tuesday. He also said he had only ever discussed Wade's relationship with Willis once with Wade.

Earlier this month, Willis' father, John C. Floyd III, took the stand and confirmed what Willis testified to, that her father taught her to keep large amounts of cash on hand at all times. She said it was from these funds that she reimbursed Wade for luxury trips, which is why she had no record of the payments.

Floyd also said he did not meet Wade until 2023 and that he was unaware his daughter had a romantic relationship with Wade until about seven weeks ago, when allegations of Willis’ impropriety were first made in court filings.


Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis testifies during a hearing in the case of the State of Georgia v. Donald John Trump at the Fulton County Courthouse on Feb. 15, 2024 in Atlanta. (Alyssa Pointer)

Michael Roman, a GOP political operative and co-defendant in the Trump case, first alleged that Willis had a conflict of interest in the case because she benefited financially from hiring her lover. Four co-defendants have made similar accusations.

The defense, led by John Merchant, is also trying to prove Willis and Wade were romantically involved prior to Wade’s employment in the DA’s office.

Robin Yeartie, a former "good friend" of Willis and past employee at the DA's office, testified she had "no doubt" Willis and Wade's relationship started in 2019, after the two met at a conference. 

Willis dismissed Yeartie’s testimony and said she no longer considers Yeartie a friend.

The highlight of the two-day proceeding was Willis’ own — and unexpected — testimony, which was described by one expert as "belligerent."

She verbally sparred with lawyers for hours, at one point prompting the judge to threaten to strike her testimony. She also raised eyebrows by appearing to wear her dress backward. She did not return to the witness stand the following day. 

McAfee said at the start of the proceedings this month that it’s "clear that disqualification can occur if evidence is produced demonstrating an actual conflict or the appearance of one."

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