Trump Co-Defendants File Notices of Appeal to Remove Fani Willis

In March, a judge ruled that the district attorney could remain on the election case, saying there wasn’t enough evidence that she had a conflict of interest.
Trump Co-Defendants File Notices of Appeal to Remove Fani Willis
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta, Ga., on March 1, 2024. (Alex Slitz/AFP via Getty Images)
Jack Phillips

Two co-defendants in the Trump case in Georgia filed notices indicating that they will appeal a judge’s decision and will seek to disqualify Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

Trump co-defendant Michael Roman filed a notice with the Georgia Court of Appeals this past week to challenge Fulton County Judge Scott McAfee’s ruling in March that allowed Ms. Willis to remain on the case.

Mr. Roman’s attorney, Ashleigh Merchant, filed the initial court motion in January that argued Ms. Willis should step down from the case because she engaged in a relationship with her former special prosecutor.

Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer, another co-defendant, also appealed the judge’s ruling in a motion filed this past week.

In March, Judge McAfee ruled that Ms. Willis could remain on the case, saying there wasn’t enough evidence that she had a conflict of interest. However, he wrote that either Ms. Willis or her former special counsel, Nathan Wade, needed to step down, prompting Mr. Wade to leave the case.

But the judge wrote that the allegations created the “appearance of impropriety” in the prosecution team, while maintaining that an “odor of mendacity” remains. Both Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade confirmed they were in a relationship, although they disputed claims that they financially benefited from the arrangement.

They also said they didn’t begin dating until the spring of 2022, after Mr. Wade was hired in November 2021, and their romance ended last summer. They also testified that they split travel costs roughly evenly, with Ms. Willis often paying expenses or reimbursing Mr. Wade in cash.

Judge McAfee’s ruling ultimately concluded that the Trump co-defendants “failed to meet their burden of proving” the case against the pair. He later wrote that the co-defendants are free to appeal his ruling to a higher state court.

Mr. Wade, in a recent interview, claimed that there was nothing inappropriate about their relationship, saying that “workplace romances are American as apple pie.”

When asked if he regretted the relationship, Mr. Wade stated, “I regret that that private matter became the focal point of this very important prosecution.”

Ms. Willis told reporters several weeks ago that she had done nothing wrong, referring to a Republican-led Senate investigation into her office in connection to the relationship allegations.

‘Sorry That Folks Get Mad’

“They can look all they want,” she said during a news conference. “The DA’s office has done everything according to the books. We are following the law. I’m sorry that folks get mad when everybody in society can be prosecuted.”

The notices of appeal filed by the defendants came after the Georgia Court of Appeals this past week agreed to review Judge McAfee’s order, which appears likely to delay the case. Once the appeals court rules, the losing side could ask the Georgia Supreme Court to consider an appeal.

In a separate order, Judge McAfee said he planned to continue to address other pretrial motions “regardless of whether the petition is granted ... and even if any subsequent appeal is expedited by the appellate court.”

But President Trump and the others could ask the Court of Appeals to stay the case while the appeal is pending.

President Trump and 18 others were indicted in August, accused of participating in a wide-ranging illegal scheme to overturn the 2020 election results.

All of the defendants were charged with violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO law.

Four people charged in the case, including former Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis and attorney Sidney Powell, have pled guilty after reaching deals with prosecutors. The former president and the others have pled not guilty.

President Trump and other defendants had argued in their appeal application that Judge McAfee was wrong not to remove Ms. Willis, writing that “providing DA Willis with the option to simply remove Wade confounds logic and is contrary to Georgia law.”

The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office has been contacted for comment regarding the notices of appeal filed by Mr. Roman and Mr. Shafer. The office hasn’t issued a response in court or a public statement.

So far, besides President Trump’s case in New York, none of the three other cases has a trial start date. Some legal analysts have speculated that none of the others will make it to trial before the November election.

The former president’s legal team has appeared to employ a strategy of delaying the trials as much as possible while he campaigns for the White House for a third time.

A recent poll from Siena College showed that he is leading President Joe Biden in multiple battleground states.

In New York, President Trump has been ordered to attend all his court dates while the trial is ongoing.

Prosecutors in that case have alleged that he falsified business records while paying to keep allegations hidden from the public about an affair that he has denied having.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X:
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