Lawyer who exposed Willis-Wade relationship reacts to court ruling: ‘Disqualified’


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Georgia attorney Ashleigh Merchant claimed vindication after a Fulton County judge issued a ruling in the disqualification proceedings against District Attorney Fani Willis.  

In an order Friday, Judge Scott McAfee said that Willis must either withdraw herself and her team from the 2020 election interference case or remove Wade as special prosecutor. The decision came after Merchant, on behalf of her client Michael Roman, first alleged that Willis had had an “improper” affair with Wade before hiring him to prosecute former President Trump and his 18 co-defendants in 2021. 

“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,” Merchant said in a statement.

“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,” she added.

JUDGE RULES FANI WILLIS MUST STEP ASIDE FROM TRUMP CASE OR FIRE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR NATHAN WADE

Georgia Attorney Ashleigh Merchant

Attorney Ashleigh Merchant speaks during a hearing in the case of the State of Georgia v. Donald John Trump at the Fulton County Courthouse on February 27, 2024, in Atlanta, Georgia. (Brynn Anderson-Pool/Getty Images)

Merchant was the first to allege in court filings that Willis had a conflict of interest in hiring Wade, her then-boyfriend, to prosecute the election interference case. She claimed that Willis had financially benefited from the relationship in the form of vacations she took with Wade, whose firm was compensated by taxpayers for working the Trump case.

Documents submitted to the court by Merchant revealed that Willis and Wade had taken several trips together and that Wade’s law firm had billed taxpayers $650,000 at a rate of $250 an hour since his hiring. 

Both Wade and Willis had denied that they were in a romantic relationship prior to his hiring. During a two-day evidentiary hearing in February, they each testified that they had split the cost of their shared trips. Willis told the court she reimbursed Wade for her share of the trips in cash.

During a two-day evidentiary hearing in February, Merchant called witnesses who testified that the couple had begun their affair in 2019 after meeting at a conference. 

TRUMP ATTORNEY REACTS TO FULTON COUNTY JUDGE’S FANI WILLIS DECISION: ‘PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT’

Fani Willis, Nathan Wade

Special prosecutor Nathan Wade (left) and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis testified at an evidentiary hearing in February after defense attorney Ashleigh Merchant sought to have Willis disqualified from the election interference case against former President Trump, her client Michael Roman and 17 other defendants.  (Getty Images)

Robin Yeartie, a former “good friend” of Willis and past employee at the DA’s office, testified to observing Willis and Wade “hugging” and “kissing” and showing “affection” prior to November 2021 and said she had no doubt that the two had been in a “romantic” relationship starting in 2019 and lasting until she and Willis last spoke in 2022.

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

The star witness for the defense was Terrence Bradley, a former law partner and divorce attorney for Wade. Merchant grilled Bradley on the witness stand last month about what he knew and when he knew about their romance.

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.

GEORGIA JUDGE TOSSES KEY WITNESS’ TESTIMONY AGAINST FANI WILLIS, CITING ‘INCONSISTENCIES’: COURT ORDER

Judge Scott McAfee

Judge Scott McAfee at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta on February 15. (Alyssa Pointer, Getty Images)

Merchant at one point referenced text messages between her and Bradley in which she had asked Bradley if he thought the relationship started before Willis hired Wade in 2021. Bradley responded “absolutely” in the text exchange.

However, McAfee said Friday that he was “unable to place any stock” in Bradley’s testimony.

In his order, McAfee said that Bradley’s “inconsistencies, demeanor, and generally non-responsive answers left far too brittle a foundation upon which to build any conclusions.”

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“While prior inconsistent statements can be considered as substantive evidence under Georgia law, Bradley’s impeachment by text message did not establish the basis for which he claimed such sweeping knowledge of Wade’s personal affairs,” McAfee said.

The judge ruled that while neither side had conclusively proved when the relationship began, there was “an appearance of impropriety” that requires either Willis or Wade to be removed from the Trump case. 

Fox News Digital’s Brianna Herlihy contributed to this report.



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