Fani Willis is all in to defeat Burt Jones, the Republican nominee for Georgia’s next Lieutenant Governor. She has gone so far as to hold a fundraiser, complete with using her official title as the Fulton County District Attorney, for Senator Jones’s Democrat opponent. She donated her own money to the Democrat’s campaign. Like I said, she is all in. Invested.
DA Willis says that she knows the Democrat personally, that they worked together in Fulton County before, and that is why she supports him for LG. If that was all there was to this story that would be normal politics. District Attorney’s have a First Amendment right to support the candidates of their choice both in their words and with their dollars. But certain actions do become questionable if it goes beyond that.
DA Willis recently named Senator Jones as a target of her
fishing expedition grand jury investigation that started out focused on President Trump’s call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger when the President said he wanted to “find the votes” to give Georgia’s electoral votes to his reelection effort. It has since morphed into something much wider that now includes the actions of the group of people who gathered at the Gold Dome to present themselves an an alternative slate of electors in the event that Trump’s legal challenges were found to have merit. Those legal challenges failed in court and the alternative slate (some call it fake), which included Senator Jones, never went anywhere as a result. Georgia’s electoral votes went to Joe Biden and were counted on January 6th for the now President.
A District Attorney who has invested in the campaign (including use of her elected title) of Senator Jones’s opponent is trying to target the Senator with a possible criminal investigation. And she doesn’t see what the problem is with that. Her office stated in court filings that, “Jones has failed to identify any personal interest on behalf of the District Attorney or any other prosecutor that meets the legal criteria for disqualification.”
That is truly scary stuff.
Luckily the judge, Robert McBurney, overseeing the DA’s actions saw it for exactly what it was, calling the optics of Willis’s fundraising activity while also investigating Jones, “horrific.” And in a ruling that should have surprised absolutely no one the Judge ruled that if criminal charges were to be brought against Senator Jones then Fani Willis and the Fulton County DA’s office would not be allowed to prosecute the case.
Judge McBurney scathingly wrote in his ruling that Willis has created, “a plain–and actual and untenable–conflict. Any decision the District Attorney makes about Senator Jones in connection with the grand jury investigation is necessarily infected by it.”
That’s gonna leave a mark.
But the judge went on to write, “This does not mean that the District Attorney cannot gather evidence about Senator Jones’s involvement in efforts to interfere with or undermine the 2020 general election results. Her office may ask witnesses about the Senator’s role in the various efforts the State Republican party undertook to call into question the legitimacy of the results of the election. What her office may not do is make use of any such evidence to develop a case against the Senator. That decision, as to whether any charges should be brought, and what they should be, will be left to a different prosecutor’s office, as determined by the Attorney General.”
The decision of who would continue the proceedings now falls to the Prosecuting Attorneys Council. At this point they are not saying exactly what they plan to do.
This means that Senator Jones is not entirely out of the woods just yet, which is why we categorize his victory as small. But his victory is certainly meaningful if for no other reason that it reestablishes a basic tenant of fairness and removes politics from the equation, at least for now.