(NEW YORK) — A Georgia judge has issued a stay of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ deposition in the the divorce case of her top prosecutor, amid allegations that she and prosecutor Nathan Wade were involved in an improper relationship while prosecuting the election interference case against former President Donald Trump.
The judge said that he will determine whether Willis has any relevant information after Wade is deposed in the divorce proceedings next week.
“The key part to me is whether [Willis] lacks unique personal knowledge or has unique personal knowledge of a matter that’s relevant to the subject matter,” the judge said in ordering the stay. “Only after I hear what Mr. Wade has to say can do I think I can make a determination about whether [Willis] has any unique knowledge about these issues.”
Willis’ deposition had been scheduled for Tuesday.
Michael Roman, one of Trump’s co-defendants in his Georgia election interference case, is seeking to dismiss the indictment against him and disqualify Willis, alleging she “engaged in a personal, romantic relationship” with one of the top prosecutors she brought in to work on the case, which allegedly resulted in financial gain for both of them.
At the start of Monday’s hearing, the judge — at the request of Ashleigh Merchant, the attorney for Roman who first filed the motion containing the allegations — ordered the divorce case between Wade and his wife be unsealed and made public.
The ruling came over the objections of Wade’s attorney, who argued that the “current status” of the case “clearly shows the harm that is done to these parties.”
The attorney for Wade’s wife consented to unsealing, saying they have “no objection.” A media coalition that includes ABC News also argued for the unsealing of the case.
Willis’ subpoena, according to court documents, was served on Willis the same day Roman filed allegations that she was having an improper relationship with Wade, who she brought in to help her prosecute the case against Trump. The filing alleges Wills “engaged in a personal, romantic relationship” with Wade, which allegedly resulted in financial gain for both of them.
Wade’s wife had asked the judge in her divorce case to enforce the subpoena in order to “determine details” surrounding Wade and Willis’ relationship. Her filing included credit card records that appear to show Wade paid for multiple trips to Miami and San Francisco for him and Willis during the election probe.
Willis’ attorney, Cinque Axam, told the judge during Monday’s hearing that Willis’ testimony is not relevant to the divorce case because it is a “no fault divorce.”
“Both parties have alleged that [the marriage] is irretrievably broken,” Axam said. “Alleging adultery is not relevant.”
The judge asked if Willis’ attorney was saying his client lacks “unique” personal knowledge that could not be discovered in some other way. Axam responded that, “The knowledge that she may or may not have is not unique.”
“Miss Willis does not share any accounts with [Wade], D.A. Willis does not determine what he spends his money on — no matter where it comes from,” Axam said.
Andrea Hastings, an attorney for Wade’s wife, argued in favor of the deposition.
“I have questions,” Hastings said more than once. “And she needs to answer them.”
Since the motion containing the allegations was filed earlier this month, a spokesperson for the DA’s office has issued only one statement, saying they would respond to the allegations “through appropriate court filings.”
Speaking last week at the Big Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day service, Willis appeared to address the allegations for the first time, calling herself a “flawed” and “imperfect” person and defending Wade as a “great friend and a great lawyer.” She did not deny the allegations, though she suggested they were motivated by race.
The Fulton County judge overseeing the election interference case has set an evidentiary hearing on the allegations for next month and ordered the DA’s office to respond to the allegations in court by Feb. 2.
Trump’s attorney has said he is considering adopting Roman’s motion, which is seeking to have Willis disqualified from the case and the indictment dismissed.
Roman, Trump and 17 others pleaded not guilty in August to all charges in a sweeping racketeering indictment for alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the state of Georgia. Four co-defendants subsequently took plea deals in exchange for agreeing to testify against other defendants.
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