Fulton County DA Fani Willis Under Fire for Paying Alleged Married Lover to Prosecute Trump, Bar Complaint Filed

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is prosecuting former President Donald Trump and others connected to him, is facing accusations she violated ethics rules by appointing her married lover as chief prosecutor on the case. The accusation was raised in a pleading filed on Monday by a lawyer for Michael Roman, a former Trump campaign staff member who also faces charges in the case along with 13 others. A bar complaint was filed with the State Bar of Georgia.

On Tuesday, Trump reacted to the news, calling Willis “totally compromised” and stating that the case “must be dropped.” He added, “It’s illegal. What she did is illegal. So we’ll let the state handle that, but what a sad situation it is.”

Roman’s lawyer, Ashleigh Merchant, said she could find no evidence that prosecutor Nathan Wade had ever prosecuted a felony case; his background was as a defense attorney and municipal judge. He was paid over $650,000 on the case, and since he took Willis on lavish vacations, the pleading alleges that Willis profited from appointing him to that position.

Andrew Fleischman, a criminal defense attorney in Atlanta, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that if true, the arrangement violates legal ethics rules. “If you are giving money to somebody who appears to be unqualified, and they are giving you some of that money back in the form of summer vacations, then you’re financially benefiting from your prosecution,” he said. “That’s a conflict of interest.” He said if Willis is found to be disqualified, it could disqualify the entire office from the prosecution.

Wade’s spouse said in a motion for expenses filed last month that he left her with nothing, even though she has always been a stay-at-home mom unable to support herself. Wade and Willis reportedly took trips to Napa Valley, Florida and the Caribbean, including Norwegian and Royal Caribbean cruises.


Roman’s filing also alleges that county funds earmarked to clear a backlog of cases built up during the pandemic were instead used to pay Wade. Noah Pines, a criminal defense attorney in Atlanta, told The Journal-Constiuttion, “She’s paying him double what others in that office are making, seemingly without justification. It just doesn’t look good.”

Wade filed for divorce from his wife the day after he began work under Willis at the DA’s office. His wife’s attorneys served Willis with a subpoena to appear on January 23 in the divorce proceedings. Roman’s attorney is attempting to unseal filings in the divorce case.

The Georgia Star News contacted the State Bar of Georgia about the allegations, asking whether an investigation had been started. A media spokesperson responded, “We have no comment on the allegations. Pursuant to Bar Rule 4-221.1 regarding the confidentiality of disciplinary investigations, the State Bar cannot confirm or deny the existence of grievances against any specific attorney. The rule can be found here: https://www.gabar.org/handbook/index.cfm#handbook/rule603.”

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA-14) filed a criminal referral with Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr against Willis on Wednesday. Greene alleged that Willis broke Georgia statutes by violating her oath of office, committing bribery, receiving private compensation in exchange for influence, engaging in racketeering conspiracies to commit a crime and defraud Georgia governments, making false statements, and a Fulton County law preventing local government officials from receiving gifts or other compensation in exchange for favors.

Greene pointed out the oath Georgia attorneys are required to take, pledging to take only their “lawful compensation.” Several Georgia state senators have announced they will be filing a complaint against Willis with the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission.

Stephen Gillers, a professor emeritus at New York University Law School who has written extensively about legal and judicial ethics, told The Journal-Constitution, “Willis was conflicted in the investigation and prosecution of this case” and wasn’t able to bring the sort of “independent professional judgment” her position requires.

“[T]he public and the state, as her client, could not have the confidence in the independent judgment that her position required her to exercise,” he added.

Steve Bright, a professor at Yale and Georgetown law schools, said the conflict is far worse than a previous one where a judge disqualified Willis and her entire office from prosecuting a case. In that situation, Willis held a fundraiser for a Democrat running for lieutenant governor against a Republican she was prosecuting, Burt Jones, who was one of 16 alternate electors for Trump.

Bright told The Journal-Constitution, “If this is true, it goes way beyond the monumentally bad judgment that she had in having a fundraiser for the guy running against Burt Jones when she was investigating Jones. It’s hard to see how the prosecution survives this.”

The Georgia Bar’s Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys, which are very similar to other states’ attorney discipline rules, contain an extensive section addressing conflicts of interest.

Boone County Prosecutor Donna Taylor, a Republican, was charged by the West Virginia Lawyer Disciplinary Board for hiring her boyfriend as an assistant prosecutor. She was accused of violating the state’s Ethics Act’s “private gain” provision. The indictment stated, “Because [Ms. Taylor] abusively employing her boyfriend while using her office for her own private gain and/or the private gain of another person, she created an improper conflict between her own interests and those of her client.”

In another count, Taylor was accused of violating rules of competence, diligence and fairness to opposing party and counsel, and accused of falling behind on some cases. The Boone County Commission voted unanimously to remove her, and she resigned shortly afterward.

Roman, who served as director of Election Day operations for the Trump campaign in 2020, was charged with seven felony accounts for his work setting up possible alternate electoral slates from states. He pleaded not guilty and turned down a plea offer. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee said he will hold a hearing in February over the allegations. Willis has said she would like to begin the trial against Trump on August 5, but the judge has yet to set a date.

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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News NetworkFollow Rachel on Twitter / X. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Fani Willis” by Fulton County District Attorney’s Office.



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One Thought to “Fulton County DA Fani Willis Under Fire for Paying Alleged Married Lover to Prosecute Trump, Bar Complaint Filed”

  1. Rick Morrow

    Lock her up.