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Trump lawyers push to admit cellphone records in Willis-Wade case

Bill Rankin, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in News & Features

Attorneys for former President Donald Trump on Monday called it “disingenuous” for Fulton County prosecutors to protest their use of cellphone records in a push to oust District Attorney Fani Willis, saying her office regularly uses the data to throw criminals in jail.

In a new court filing, Trump attorneys Steve Sadow and Jennifer Little said the cellphone evidence — which appears to show special prosecutor Nathan Wade making nearly three dozen visits to Willis’ Hapeville neighborhood in 2021 — should be admitted into the record. They say the data undercuts testimony by Willis and Wade, who are leading the election interference case against Trump and 14 others, about when their romantic relationship began.

“(T)his is the same data that Fulton County District Attorney’s Office routinely relies upon to obtain convictions and thus any suggestion that this data is unreliable is disingenuous at best,” said the motion.

On Friday, Trump’s lawyers filed an affidavit by investigator Charles Mittelstadt who used an online analytics tool using cellphone tower transmissions to determine that Wade’s cellphone paid 35 visits to the Hapeville area where Willis was living. This included two times — one on Sept. 11, 2021, and another on Nov. 29, 2021 — where Wade’s cellphone arrived in the area late in the evening and left hours later in the predawn hours.

Hours later, Fulton prosecutors filed a court motion contending the cellphone records are inadmissible on a number of procedural grounds. And they said even if they are allowed, they “do not prove, in any way,” the content of the communications between Willis and Wade, whether Wade was ever at a particular address or whether Willis and Wade were ever in the same place during those times.

In fact, the prosecutors’ motion said there are multiple dates and times cited in the defense analysis where Willis was not at the Hapeville condominium. The filing provided copies of the DA’s calendar entries to support that contention — including entries that show Willis was at the office or at murder crime scenes.

But in Monday’s filing, Trump’s lawyers noted the cellphone records show Willis and Wade were talking on the phone on the evenings of Sept. 11, 2021, and Nov. 29, 2021, shortly before Wade “ended up at a location near or at her condominium for five hours.” For this reason, the motion said, it’s more likely than not Willis and Wade spent the night together on those two occasions and their romantic relationship began before they testified it did during a recent court hearing.

The filing also said it is “highly significant” that the state in its response did not attempt to challenge the cellphone tracking evidence regarding the two evenings in question.


Mittelstadt’s affidavit also said Willis and Wade called each other more than 2,000 times during the first 11 months of 2021 and exchanged nearly 10,000 text messages.

Defense lawyers are seeking to disqualify Willis and her office from the election case, contending Willis improperly benefited financially from her romantic relationship with Wade when they went on vacations together to places such as the Caribbean, Napa Valley and Aruba. Willis strongly denies the allegations. Both she and Wade testified they roughly split the costs of those trips, except Willis said she footed the entire cost of a trip to Belize for Wade’s 50th birthday.

The cellphone records are important, defense attorneys argue, because both Willis and Wade testified their romantic relationship began in 2022, months after Willis appointed Wade to be special prosecutor in November 2021. The cellphone tracking records raise questions about when the romance actually began, they said.

Experts disagree on the precision and reliability of cellphone tracking technology.

Trump’s lawyers on Monday acknowledged that Mittelstadt does not know what was going on in the predawn hours at the Hapeville condo on the two nights in question.

“Neither does President Trump or any other defendant in this case,” the motion said. “Only two people know. They are certainly the ones who should testify and say exactly what was happening on those occasions, so nobody will complain about improper speculation or improper efforts to distort the truth.”

Both Willis and Wade testified their romantic relationship ended last summer. Fulton Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee has scheduled closing arguments on the motion to disqualify Wills for this Friday.

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