Fulton DA: Special prosecutor's wife "conspired" to interfere with Trump election case

Wife of prosecutor accused of improper relationship with Fani Willis working with "interested parties," filing says

By Tatyana Tandanpolie

Staff Writer

Published January 19, 2024 11:27AM (EST)

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis appears before Judge Scott McAfee for a hearing in the 2020 Georgia election interference case at the Fulton County Courthouse on November 21, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Dennis Byron-Pool/Getty Images)
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis appears before Judge Scott McAfee for a hearing in the 2020 Georgia election interference case at the Fulton County Courthouse on November 21, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Dennis Byron-Pool/Getty Images)

Fulton County, Ga. District Attorney Fani Willis rejected accusations that she engaged in an "improper" romantic relationship with her team's special prosecutor, instead alleging that his estranged wife has conspired with other parties to interfere in her criminal case against former President Donald Trump and his allies.

Willis was subpoenaed to provide a pretrial deposition in Nathan and Joycelyn Wade's divorce case on Jan. 23, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. But Willis' attorney vehemently argued against the subpoena in a scathing Thursday filing. 

Joycelyn Wade “has conspired with interested parties in the criminal election interference case to use the civil discovery process to annoy, embarrass and oppress District Attorney Willis,” the filing said. 

The allegations against Willis and special prosecutor Nathan Wade first cropped up last week when Trump codefendant Mike Roman's attorney, Ashleigh Merchant, accused the two of engaging in a romantic relationship.

The lawyer further claimed that Willis enjoyed "lavish" vacations that Wade paid for with the money he made from working in her office, but did not include evidence, the Journal-Constitution notes. She also did not provide proof to back up claims of Willis and Wade's alleged impropriety, but she suggested it would be in Wade's pending divorce case, in which documents are sealed.

A hearing on whether to unseal the documents is slated for Jan. 31. Merchant moved to unseal the divorce case, which has been private since 2022, on Jan. 8. The Journal-Constitution and 14 other outlets filed a motion requesting the public release of the divorce records.

Willis was served with the subpoena the same day Merchant filed the motion and Roman's filing was unsealed, Clinque Axam, Willis' lawyer, noted in the filing.

“Defendant Joycelyn Wade has not objected to Michael Roman’s motion to unseal the proceedings despite having previously sought it and having benefited from its protection for more than two years,” Axam argued.

An attorney for Joycelyn Wade told the Journal-Constitution that her goal is to assist her client in resolving her divorce "fairly and privately," adding that she would address Willis' allegations in writing through the court.

“Ms. Willis alleges that her deposition is being sought in an attempt to harass and damage her reputation," Merchant told the outlet Thursday. "Why would her truthful testimony risk damaging her reputation?”

“We believe her filing in Cobb County is just another attempt to avoid having to directly answer the important questions Mr. Roman has raised," she added. "She appears to be doing everything she can to avoid having to account for inconvenient and difficult facts.”

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Willis argued that Joycelyn Wade failed to include a relevant reason for requesting her deposition in “in an uncontested no-fault divorce where the parties have been separated for over two years.”

The move “suggests that Defendant Joycelyn Wade is using the legal process to harass and embarrass District Attorney Willis, and in doing so, is obstructing and interfering with an ongoing criminal prosecutions [sic],” Willis argued in the filing, also saying that the Wades' marriage had fallen apart after Joycelyn Wade admitted to cheating with an old friend of Nathan Wade. 

“If, however, media reports are any indication, [Joycelyn Wade] may intend to ask questions regarding the nature of any relationship with [Nathan Wade],” the filing reads. “Because the parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken and the concept of fault is not at issue, there is no information that District Attorney Willis could provide that might prove relevant to granting or denying the divorce.”

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Willis' attorney also said in the filing that the subpoena was improperly served to her through a staff member, the Journal-Constitution notes.

While Willis did not address the kind of relationship she has with the special prosecutor in the filing, she vehemently defended Wade and herself in a speech at the Big Bethel AME Church in Atlanta. She bemoaned critics' claims against the interference case's only Black special prosecutor and argued they were "playing the race card."

On the same day the allegations surfaced, Fulton Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who is presiding over the election interference case, scheduled an evidentiary hearing for Feb. 15 to examine them. The order also directed Willis to submit a written response to the court by Feb. 2.

Attorneys for at least two of the case's defendants have signaled an interest in signing onto Roman's motion, saying they're looking into the accusations.

By Tatyana Tandanpolie

Tatyana Tandanpolie is a staff writer at Salon. Born and raised in central Ohio, she moved to New York City in 2018 to pursue degrees in Journalism and Africana Studies at New York University. She is currently based in her home state and has previously written for local Columbus publications, including Columbus Monthly, CityScene Magazine and The Columbus Dispatch.

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Brief Donald Trump Fani Willis Politics