Top 5 Takeaways from McAfee’s Willis/Wade Ruling

5. Judge McAfee threatened to put Fani Willis under a gag order: After Ashley Merchant’s now-substantiated accusations that Fulton County DA Fani Willis and Special Assistant DA Nathan Wade were in a romantic relationship, Fani Willis decried the allegations as racially motivated at Big Bethel AME Church on MLK Jr. Weekend. Attorneys for the defense had argued that Willis’s speech had tainted the jury pool. McAfee did not agree with that assessment but seemed to be be circumspect regarding Willis’s willingness to make on the record comments about the case as it was happening:

“…recent comments [By the Fulton County DA] describing the charges in the indictment, the procedural posture of the case, the office’s conviction rates, and personal behind-the-scenes anecdotes are not disqualifying. This includes the District Attorney’s unorthodox decision to make on-the-record comments, and authorize members of her staff to do likewise, to authors intent on publishing a book about the special grand jury’s investigation during the pendency of this case. Such decisions may have ancillary prejudicial effects yet to be realized, but the comments do not rise to the level of disqualification under Williams.”

“The same cannot so easily be said of the District Attorney’s prepared speech delivered before the congregation of a local Atlanta church on January 14, 2024. In these public and televised comments, the District Attorney complained that a Fulton County Commissioner “and so many others” questioned her decision to hire SADA Wade. When referring to her detractors throughout the speech, she frequently utilized the plural ‘they.’ The State argues the speech was not aimed at any of the Defendants in this case. Maybe so. But maybe not. Therein lies the danger of public comment by a prosecuting attorney.”

Page 19 of McAfee’s ruling

Citing that Williams case, McAfee wrote that the trial was still far enough in the future to keep the jury pool from being permanently tainted, however that the comments were, “…legally improper. Providing this type of public comment creates dangerous waters for the District Attorney to wade further into. The time may well have arrived for an order preventing the State from mentioning the case in any public forum to prevent prejudicial pretrial publicity, but that is not the motion presently before the Court.”

4. McAfee found that Willis’s claims she paid Wade back in cash to be plausible: When it came to light that Nathan Wade had been using his new found wealth to pay for his new boss to take luxurious trips with him, both he and Willis claimed that she paid him back in cash. Willis could provide no record of the transactions and claimed to always have large amounts of cash. McAfee wrote that this arrangement, “…was not so incredible as to be inherently unbelievable.” Additionally, he added, “Such a reimbursement practice may be unusual and the lack of any documentary corroboration understandably concerning. Yet the testimony withstood direct contradiction, [and] was corroborated by other evidence.”

3. While McAfee did not find a technical conflict of interest, he still chastised Willis for bad judgement and unprofessionalism:

Without sufficient evidence that the District Attorney acquired a personal stake in the prosecution, or that her financial arrangements had any impact on the case, the Defendants’ claims of an actual conflict must be denied. This finding is by no means an indication that the Court condones this tremendous lapse in judgment or the unprofessional manner of the District Attorney’s testimony during the evidentiary hearing. Rather, it is the undersigned’s opinion that Georgia law does not permit the finding of an actual conflict for simply making bad choices – even repeatedly.

Page 9 of McAfee’s Ruling – emphasis added

I am going to need some of my attorney friends to tell me how many times they have seen a judge describe the behavior of a prosecuting attorney as a, “tremendous lapse in judgment.” I mean between McBurney and McAfee, two judges have now pointed out that Willis is screwing the pooch on this case. Which brings us to the next takeaway…

2. While the Judge didn’t throw Willis off the case, there is plenty in his ruling for the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualification Council (PAQC) to take a look at: While Athens- Clark County DA Deborah Gonzalez is the posterchild for the need for DA’s to have a higher degree of accountability, Fani Willis’s lack of judgement on this case alone has justified the creation of the PAQC.

First, while seeking to prosecute now Lieutenant Governor Burt Jones, Willis hosted a fundraiser for his political opponent. WHILE SEEKING TO PROSECUTE HIM! That led Judge McBurney to describe that scenario as, “a ‘what are you thinking?’ moment.”

In his ruling today, McAfee called Willis’s behavior unprofessional and said she had been making bad decisions repeatedly.

McAfee’s ruling, no doubt, will be used by Fani Willis’s critics to file a complaint about her behavior with the PAQC.

Number 1: Nathan Wade is off the case because the judge questioned his integrity: While the ruling mentions that there are two options to remedy the appearance of impropriety a) The Whole Fulton DA’s Office give up the case and leave the prosecution to the Prosecuting Attorneys Council, or b) Nathan Wade goes, there is really only one choice.

He gone.

Over $700,000 dollars in public resources paid to Fani Willis’s boyfriend when he had never prosecuted a case and all we got out of it was content for the blog and podcast.

But there was also this nugget in which Judge McAfee appears to be questioning Nathan Wade’s integrity:

Wade’s patently unpersuasive explanation for the inaccurate interrogatories he submitted in his pending divorce indicates a willingness on his part to wrongly conceal his relationship with the District Attorney. As the case moves forward, reasonable members of the public could easily be left to wonder whether the financial exchanges have continued resulting in some form of benefit to the District Attorney, or even whether the romantic relationship has resumed. Put differently, an outsider could reasonably think that the District Attorney is not exercising her independent professional judgment totally free of any compromising influences. As long as Wade remains on the case, this unnecessary perception will persist.

McAfee’s Ruling pages 15-16

He went on to write that although the testimony of Terrence Bradley and Robin Yearti either could not be relied upon or lacked sufficient detail to pin down when the Willis/Wade affair began, “an odor of mendacity remains.”

I had to look up the definition of mendacity. Here it is: 1. the quality of being mendacious; untruthfulness; tendency to lie. 2. an instance of lying; falsehood.

McAfee continued, “…reasonable questions about whether the District Attorney and her hand-selected lead SADA testified untruthfully about the timing of their relationship further underpin the finding of an appearance of impropriety and the need to make proportional efforts to cure it.”

So combine the well documented pattern of Fani Willis making bad decisions with Nathan Wade’s perceived lack of integrity and this is where we are.

I sure hope that Nathan Wade has not spent all of that money he got from the people of Georgia for this case. I can foresee a disbarment hearing in his future for how he has behaved during the last few years. He may need all that money as his nest egg for his next career.

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