Fulton County DA faces election runoff battle while under state investigation

ATLANTA — Fulton County’s long-time district attorney faces two separate state investigations, but it could be voters who remove him from office.

District Attorney Paul Howard came in second in the primary election for his seat on Tuesday, the worst election showing he’s had since taking office in 1997. He now advances to a runoff with Democratic challenger Fani Willis.

“What you will overwhelmingly see, is that the people of Fulton County, Georgia, they desperately want a change,” Willis said on Wednesday.

Willis once served as the chief assistant to the district attorney under Howard. Their runoff election is August 11.

She told Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher that she will spend the next two months reminding voters that the county’s top law enforcement official is under a criminal investigation.

Reporting by Channel 2 Action News and our investigative partners at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution have led to investigations of Howard by both the State Ethics Commission and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Channel 2 and AJC reporters discovered that the city of Atlanta sent $250,000 to the district attorney’s office for crime prevention programs and almost 80 percent of that went into Howard’s paycheck.

Howard in May called the issue an “administrative matter” and said he expects to be exonerated.

“He does what is best for him and what the district attorney should do is what’s for the people. We see that in you stealing $195,000 from black and brown children,” Willis said.

Willis also joined the police chief in accusing Howard of moving too quickly to charge six Atlanta police officers with excessive force during a weekend of protests in May.

Willis said she thinks he made the decision based on politics.

“You indict police really quick when its good for you, but when it’s not good for you, you wait for the news to die down. Why don’t you just do what’s right when it’s right,” Willis said.

Howard did not respond to requests from Belcher to talk about the election results and would not agree to meet with him, but instead said he would answer questions from another Channel 2 Action News reporter on Thursday.