Attorneys vow to keep fighting to throw out case following Willis/Wade ruling

ATLANTA — Attorneys for former President Donald Trump and other defendants in the Georgia election interference case are vowing to keep fighting to have the case thrown out following Friday’s ruling saying either Fani Willis or Nathan Wade must be removed from the case.

Lawyers for former President Donald Trump and other defendants alleged Willis paid Wade large sums for his work as a special prosecutor and then improperly benefited when he paid for vacations for the two of them.

Willis and Wade’s relationship first came to light in a motion filed by an attorney for Trump co-defendant Michael Roman that sought to have the indictment dismissed and to bar Willis and Wade and their offices from continuing to prosecute the case.

In his ruling Friday, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee said, “There has not been a showing that the Defendants’ due process rights have been violated or that the issues involved prejudiced the Defendants in any way.”

He did however say that there was “an odor of mendacity” that remains about the case.

“The established record now highlights a significant appearance of impropriety that infects the current structure of the prosecution team - an appearance that must be removed through the State’s selection of one of two options,” McAfee wrote. “The appearance standard recognizes that even when no actual conflict exists, a perceived conflict in the reasonable eyes of the public threatens confidence in the legal system itself. When this danger goes uncorrected, it undermines the legitimacy and moral force of our already weakest branch of government.”

“An outsider could reasonably think that the District Attorney is not exercising her independent professional judgment totally free of any compromising influences. As long as Wade remains on the case, this unnecessary perception will persist,” McAfee said in his ruling.

Wade resigned from the case late Friday afternoon.


Trump attorney Steve Sadow said while he respects the court decision, the fight to have Willis removed from the case is far from over.

“We believe that the Court did not afford appropriate significance to the prosecutorial misconduct of Willis and Wade, including the financial benefits, testifying untruthfully about when their personal relationship began, as well as Willis’ extrajudicial MLK ‘church speech,’ where she played the race card and falsely accused the defendants and their counsel of racism. We will use all legal options available as we continue to fight to end this case, which should never have been brought in the first place.”

Ashleigh Merchant, who first made the accusations surrounding Willis and Wade’s relationship, said despite the case not being thrown out, McAfee’s ruling was “vindication.”

“While we believe the court should have disqualified Willis’ office entirely, this opinion is a vindication that everything put forth by the defense was true, accurate and relevant to the issues surrounding our client’s right to a fair trial. The judge clearly agreed with the defense that the actions of Willis are a result of her poor judgment and that there is a risk to the future of this case if she doesn’t quickly work to cure her conflict.

“While we do not agree that the courts suggested cure is adequate in response to the egregious conduct by the district attorney, we look forward to the district attorney’s response to the demands by the court. We will continue to fight for our client.”

Attorney Chris Anulewicz, who represents defendant Robert Cheeley, also sent us a statement, saying:

“The Court correctly found that an appearance of impropriety and a pall exists over this case requiring the recusal of either the District Attorney or Mr. Wade. We believe the finding of impropriety requires the disqualification of the entire prosecution team and are assessing next steps.”

In an exclusive interview Thursday with Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne, McAfee spoke about the gravity of making this ruling.

“The message I want to convey is no ruling of mine is ever going to be based on politics. I’m going to be following the law the best I understand it,” McAfee said. “I took this job not because I wanted to score partisan political points, didn’t go looking for the spotlight. I did it because I love the law and giving people their day in court and being efficient about it.”

Meanwhile, Channel 2′s Richard Elliot spoke with former DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James.

He said McAfee made the right decision because an appearance of impropriety can affect a prosecution almost as much as actual impropriety.

“The judge looked at whether or not there’s an actual conflict, and he decided that there’s not, and i agree, there’s really no evidence to support an actual conflict. But the appearance as it pertains to Nathan Wade was just too strong to leave him on the case,” James said.

James told Elliot that he thinks Willis can continue to prosecute this case, but he says the case may move forward a bit damaged now.


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