Dramatic Hearing On Fani Willis Corruption Allegations Comes To A Close With Outcome Still Unclear

A dramatic two-day hearing on a motion to disqualify Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis came to an inconclusive end Friday.

Defense attorneys sought to prove allegations contained in Trump co-defendant Michael Roman’s Jan. 8 motion, which claimed Willis improperly benefited from awarding her romantic partner, Nathan Wade, a lucrative contract to work on the case against former president Donald Trump when he took her on vacations. Despite a witness who testified to the contrary, Willis and Wade maintained their relationship did not begin until 2022, after Wade’s contract started, and denied Willis benefited financially, claiming she paid him back for the travel expenses in cash.

Willis’ long-time friend Robin Yeartie, who formerly worked for the DA’s office, testified Thursday that the couple’s relationship began in 2019 shortly after the two met at a municipal court conference. She said she observed them hugging and kissing long before Wade’s contract began.

Terrence Bradley, Wade’s former law partner and attorney on his divorce case, also confirmed during his testimony Friday that he was emailed a draft copy of Roman’s motion before it was filed and replied to Roman’s attorney, Ashleigh Merchant, that it looked good. However, he declined to elaborate on what he meant and could not directly answer any questions about Wade’s relationship because of attorney-client privilege.

Willis’ father testified he never met Wade until 2023 and noted Willis was dating someone else, a disc jockey named “Deuce” in 2019. Yet he said he did not know about the relationship with Wade until “everyone else” did when the allegations surfaced just weeks ago.

‘I Have Money In My Home’

While Willis’ combative testimony prompted the judge at one point to call for a break and produced a number of viral lines — such as “A man is not a plan” and “Where’s Belize? What continent?” and “I like Grey Goose” — neither she nor Wade were able to provide concrete evidence backing the claim they split expenses roughly equally.

Wade’s explanation for his lack of receipts showing Willis ever reimbursed him for expenses was that she paid him in cash. Keeping lots of cash in her home was a practice her father taught her, Willis later testified, adding the cash was not withdrawn from an ATM and came from various other sources — including her first campaign.

“When you meet my father, he’s going to tell you as a woman, you should always have … at least six months in cash at your house, at all time,” Willis said.

Willis’ father, John Floyd, did on Friday back up her claim about keeping cash at the house, stating that it is a “black thing.”

The only documentation Wade could point to showing Willis covered any expenses was a receipt for an airline ticket attached to the state’s response to Roman’s motion.

After an “off the rails” first day of testifying, counsel for the district attorney’s office, Anna Cross, opted not to bring Willis back to the stand on Friday.

Conflicting Statements

Defense attorneys also questioned Wade about discrepancies in his sworn statements.

In his divorce case, he submitted a May 2023 statement claiming he never entertained or had sexual relations with another member of the opposite sex during the course of his marriage. In his affidavit responding to Roman’s allegations, he affirmed he was in a relationship with Willis starting in 2022.

Wade claimed in response that his marriage was “irretrievably broken in 2015,” even though he was still legally married. The question is worded to explicitly include the time up “to the present” along with periods “of separation.”

Wade also claimed he never used Bradley’s credit card. Bradley directly contradicted this during his testimony, stating he recalled “at least” one time where Wade used it to pay for travel.

Toward the end of the hearing Friday, Cross accused Bradley of lying about why he left the firm he previously worked at with Wade. While initially claiming the reason was covered under attorney-client privledge, he later affirmed it was due to an allegation of sexual assault.

“Mr. Bradley previously testified the reason he left the firm was totally covered by privilege,” Judge Scott McAfee said. “Now I’m left wondering if Mr. Bradley has been properly interpreting privilege this entire time.”

Next Steps

McAfee said he would schedule another hearing, potentially for next Friday. He also indicated he would privately schedule an in-camera review with Bradley to sort out his privilege claims.

Multiple legal experts indicated there may be enough evidence to demonstrate the “appearance of impropriety” even if there is not enough to show a conflict of interest.

“That’s where I’d be nervous if I were the Fulton County DA,” Georgia State University College of Law professor Anthony Michael Kreis wrote.

“I think a jury could find beyond a reasonable doubt that Fani Willis and Nathan Wade committed perjury at this hearing,” Atlanta-based criminal defense attorney Andrew Fleischman wrote on X. “I think it is more likely than not that the judge finds there is an appearance of impropriety here without making explicit credibility findings.”

Katelynn Richardson on February 17, 2024


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