ATLANTA — Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee on Monday cleared the way for an evidentiary hearing later in the week that will probe whether District Attorney Fani Willis improperly benefited from her relationship with the top prosecutor in her election interference case.
McAfee turned back a request from the Fulton DA’s office to cancel the hearing and to kill subpoenas seeking testimony from Willis and eight others in her office, including special prosecutor Nathan Wade, her executive assistant and investigators involved in her security detail.
The extraordinary developments were sparked by a motion from defendant Mike Roman to disqualify Willis and her office from the case. One sign of how seriously the judge is taking the issue: He has set aside Thursday and Friday for testimony and arguments.
“Because I think it’s possible that the facts alleged by the defendant could result in disqualification, I think an evidentiary hearing must occur to establish the record on those core allegations,” McAfee said.
When did the relationship start?
The judge said he would allow Roman’s attorney, Ashleigh Merchant, to question Terrence Bradley, Wade’s former law partner who had represented him in his divorce case. Merchant believes that Bradley can speak to when Willis and Wade’s relationship began.
In a recent court filing, Merchant raised questions about the accuracy of statements Wade made in an affidavit, in particular his claim that he did not begin a personal relationship with Willis until after he was hired by her in late 2021. (During Monday’s hearing, special prosecutor Anna Cross said the facts Wade swore to in his affidavit are “100% true.”)
McAfee said he would defer a decision on whether to honor or quash the subpoenas for the DA and other witnesses until after Bradley testifies. It is generally rare for prosecutors to be forced to answer questions under oath.
McAfee said the evidentiary hearing needs to establish “whether a relationship existed, whether that relationship was romantic or nonromantic in nature, when it formed and whether it continues.”
”And that’s only relevant because it’s in combination with the question of the existence and extent of any personal benefit conveyed as a result of their relationship,” he said.
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