Fani Willis (File)

Georgia DA Fani Willis’ Defense Of ‘Relationship’ With Special Prosecutor Doesn’t Quite Add Up

Fani Willis (File)
Fani Willis (File) By Katelynn Richardson, DCNF.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ Friday denial of corruption allegations left many questions unanswered, including details about the start of her relationship with Nathan Wade and his prior professional experience.

Though Willis confirmed in a Friday court filing that she had a ‘personal relationship” with Nathan Wade, the special prosecutor she appointed to work on the case against former President Donald Trump, she forcefully denied financially benefiting from awarding him a lucrative contract. Co-defendant Michael Roman filed a response later that day contesting many of Willis’ claims.

While Willis urged the judge to dismiss the motion to disqualify her without the Feb. 15 hearing, her filing did not resolve many central issues. Both Willis and Wade have been subpoenaed to testify during the hearing.

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Here are some questions that remain unanswered ahead of Judge Scott McAfee weighing each side’s claims.

Why did Nathan Wade file for divorce the day after his contract started?

In an affidavit, Wade stated that his relationship with Willis did not begin until 2022, after he was hired. However, he filed for divorce on Nov. 2, 2021 — the day after his contract with the district attorney’s office began.

Roman’s response to the filing calls into question Wade’s claim that their relationship did not begin until after the contract started, as well as the claim that they never cohabitated.

“Some of the individuals whom Mr. Roman has subpoenaed to testify have personal knowledge that Wade and Willis’ personal relationship began before his appointment as a special prosecutor,” Roman’s motion states. “In other words, they have knowledge that the assertion by Willis in the State’s response and in Wade’s affidavit are both false.”

“[W]itnesses will testify that you cohabitated with Ms. Willis at her home in South Fulton until her father moved in with her and you then began to cohabitate at the apartment of a friend of hers in East Point,” Roman’s filing also claims. “Additionally, witnesses will testify that you cohabitated with Ms. Willis at an AirBNB in Hapeville that was paid for by tax payer money to serve as a ‘safe house’ for you and Ms. Willis.”

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Wade’s wife previously alleged that he failed to disclose to her payments he received from the office, leaving her without means of financial support throughout the divorce proceedings.

Is Wade qualified for his position?

Wade disputed Roman’s allegation that he was unqualified, listing “dozens of accolades” and claiming he has tried “complex civil and criminal matters.” But in a response, Roman said this claim is  “unsubstantiated,” noting Wade “has given this Court and the public no reason to take his word for it.”

Questions also remain about the prior position Wade held in Cobb County, which he points to as a justification for his $250 an hour pay rate, noting he represented the Sheriff of Cobb County at a rate of $550 per hour.

Wade defended Sheriff Neil Warren from allegations that he “did not notarize his original qualifying documents,” according to court documents. He also conducted — for free and at the request of a former classmate who worked Warren’s office — a heavily criticized investigation into deaths in a county jail, according to court documents in a public records lawsuit brought by 11 Alive.

“Indeed, at the suggestion of Cobb County Chief Deputy Sheriff Sonya Allen, who is Mr. Wade’s former classmate and friend, Mr. Wade represented Sheriff Warren in his personal capacity at a hearing before the Cobb County Board of Elections earlier this year and defended Sheriff Warren against allegations made by a former Democratic challenger that Sheriff Warren did not notarize his original qualifying documents,” the court filing states. “…Aside from having a pre-existing personal relationship with Sheriff Warren and Chief Deputy Allen and agreeing to perform the alleged ‘investigation’ for free, there is no discernible reason by Mr. Wade was chosen to conduct the ‘investigation.”

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Additionally, 11 Alive reported Wade kept no work product over the course of five months, and told its attorney he had only his “brainchild, what’s going on in my mind about it.”

Cindi Yeager, co-chief assistant District Attorney in Cobb County, questioned on Thursday Wade’s qualifications for the Trump case based on this incident.

“Based on the complete lack of following the necessary protocol for conducting a proper investigation, I would question anyone who would consider utilizing Mr. Wade’s services for this type of investigation, especially one that involves such complicated issues as in the Trump election prosecution,” Yeager told USA Today.

Allen later went to work at the Fulton County District Attorney’s office as a Deputy District Attorney.

Why is Willis criticizing efforts to gain further clarity?

Willis requested the judge dismiss Roman’s motion to disqualify her without holding the hearing on the allegations — which Atlanta-based defense attorney Andrew Fleischman pointed out does not comport with Georgia law.

“For a statement to be admissible, the person making the statement has to come to court and be asked questions by both sides,” he said in reference to Wade’s affidavit, noting there are exceptions but none of them apply in this scenario.

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Likewise, Roman’s motion points to the necessity of cross examining Wade, alleging witnesses will contradict his testimony.

Willis’ response also slams Roman’s attorney for attempting to gain information through issuing a number of subpoenas.

“By the issuance of this number of subpoenas to individuals with little to no knowledge of the essential facts that are legally determinative, counsel for Defendant Roman seemingly anticipates a hearing that would last days, garner more breathless media coverage, and intrude even further into the personal lives of the prosecution team in an effort to embarrass and harass the District Attorney personally,” the filing states.

The filing faults them for going as far as to “subpoena an attorney who at one time represented [Wade] in his divorce proceedings.” Terrence Bradley — who was subpoenaed and represented Wade in his divorce until — received $74,480 from the district attorney’s office between May 2021 and June 2022, according to county records.

Fleischman noted in a post that filing subpoenas and open record requests is actually “inconsistent with the bad faith” Willis alleges.

How much did Wade pay for trips the couple took?

Wade claims expenses for personal travel were “roughly divided equally between us” and that Willis at times “made and purchased travel for she and I from her personal funds.” Yet the filing only includes a receipt for one flight and provides no evidence she reimbursed him for other purchases.

Bank statements included in filings for Nathan Wade’s divorce case show he purchased tickets to Miami and San Francisco in Willis’ name and made payments to a cruise line on the same day he purchased the Miami ticket.

It’s unclear whether Willis accompanied Wade on the cruise.

Roman’s response provided further evidence of travel by including a receipt for a single hotel room at the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort and Casino with Wade and Willis’ names.

How will Willis respond to other ethics issues?

Since Roman’s motion, other issues have come to light that highlight Willis’ lack of transparency.

Willis failed to disclose a plane ticket purchased by Wade, as well as any other travel Wade may have paid for that year, according to a 2022 disclosure form obtained by the DCNF.

In 2021, a whistleblower warned Willis that a campaign aide planned to use a $488,000 federal grant for “impossible” purposes, paying for “swag,” travel and computers, the Washington Free Beacon reported. The whistleblower claimed she was terminated two months after bringing these to light.

The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Willis Friday to testify on her potential misuse of federal grant funds in relation to the incident.

The district attorney’s office and Wade did not respond to requests for comment.

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