A hearing this week could prove to be a defining moment for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and her election interference case.
For the first time since misconduct allegations surfaced against Willis, the judge overseeing the case will weigh in. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee has scheduled an evidentiary hearing for February 15 to consider a motion from defendant Mike Roman that seeks to disqualify Willis and her office from the case and for the criminal charges against him to be dropped.
Roman is arguing that Willis improperly benefitted financially from the case, which has ensnared former President Donald Trump and 14 other remaining defendants, citing her romantic relationship with one of the case’s special prosecutors, Nathan Wade.
Roman’s accusations have upended the case over the last month, transforming one of the country’s most high-profile criminal prosecutions into a personal, increasingly bitter knife fight.
Here’s what we’re watching for:
Key issues to be debated
Roman has alleged that Willis and Wade have “enriched themselves” off the case. McAfee must determine whether there is a legal conflict that justifies an extraordinary remedy like removing the DA’s office from the case.
There are two main grounds for disqualifying a prosecutor from a case, according to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Council of Georgia: “forensic misconduct” or a conflict of interest. In 2005, the Georgia Supreme Court said a conflict exists when “the prosecutor has acquired a personal interest or stake in the defendant’s conviction.” It added that an “actual conflict” must be involved, not just a “theoretical or speculative conflict.”
Roman has cited more than $16,000 Wade spent on cruises and trips with Willis to Napa Valley, Aruba and Belize allegedly using his taxpayer-funded earnings. Roman argues it could amount to self-dealing and honest services fraud, a federal crime in which a vendor gives kickbacks to an employer. Wade, a private attorney who is solely contracting on the Trump case, said he and Willis roughly divided expenses on trips using individual personal funds and the DA has insisted she did nothing wrong.
Roman, in a court filing on Friday, also drew attention to access Willis gave authors of a recent book about the probe, saying it was part of an effort to “prejudice Mr. Roman and poison the jury pool.”
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