A blockbuster hearing with details about the relationship between Fulton County Prosecutor Fani Willis and special prosecutor Nathan Wade will continue Thursday, after the presiding judge opted not to immediately quash subpoenas for their testimony.
But the hearing revealed a possible new obstacle for Willis: County administrators have failed to turn over key documents subpoenaed by Ashleigh Merchant, lawyer for former Trump White House aide Michael Roman, the one of 19 defendants charged in the county’s sprawling election interference and racketeering case with the former president.
Willis said in his filings and before an Atlanta church audience that Wade was paid as much as other special prosecutors. The trader is seeking employment records to potentially disprove this claim. Records released so far by the prosecutor’s office show Wade billed the county more than half a million dollars for his work on the case.
Employment contracts for Special Prosecutor Anna Green Cross and others requested by Merchant are not in the possession of county government records administrators, Fulton County Records Custodian Shalanda MJ Miller said during a hearing Monday. Neither did two invoices for work done in the Trump lawsuits that Merchant said had been paid.
Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee on Monday rejected questions during the preliminary hearing about whether Wade was qualified to be appointed prosecutor in the high-profile racketeering case. Regardless of his experience — or lack thereof — as a prosecutor, “as long as a lawyer has a heartbeat and a bar card,” Wade’s appointment is a matter of prosecutorial discretion, McAfee said.
But the legal question of whether a personal relationship between the two leads to a personal enrichment dispute requires an evidentiary hearing, he said. “The state has acknowledged the existence of a relationship.”
Roman and Merchant have raised allegations of an inappropriate relationship as they seek to disqualify Wade and Willis as prosecutors in the Trump case and drop the charges. In filings and in court, Willis’ office called the accusations speculative and baseless.
“The defense doesn’t give you facts. The defense does not bring you the law. The defense brings you gossip,” said Fulton County Special Prosecutor Anna Green Cross. Willis will not benefit financially from prosecuting the case, she said, and even if the allegations Merchant makes are true, they provide insufficient legal basis to remove the prosecutor and his appointees from the case.
Thursday’s hearing in McAfee’s courtroom will hinge on testimony from Atlanta attorney Terrence Bradley, an associate of Wade’s who previously represented him as a divorce attorney. Willis, Wade and a host of other potential witnesses subpoenaed by Merchant filed motions to have those subpoenas quashed — to have McAfee decide that their testimony would be useless.
McAfee said he would review those requests more closely after hearing Bradley’s testimony.
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