Fulton County DA Fani Willis hearing: 'Just the beginning' of the drama, law professor says

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is facing disqualification in the Georgia election interference case which seeks to prosecute former President Donald Trump and others on racketeering charges.

Defense attorneys have been trying to prove to Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee that Willis financially benefitted from a personal relationship with special prosecutor Nathan Wade. They argue that the district attorney and Wade had a relationship prior to his being hired, creating a conflict of interest.

Burden of proof on DA Willis’ disqualification

Emory University School of Law associate professor John Acevedo said this bitter week in the courtroom could be a glimpse of what's to come in the weeks and months ahead.

He said the chances of Judge McAfee disqualifying Wade or Willis aren't huge because the defense hasn't been able to directly prove a direct benefit Willis had from employing Wade.

"Here it’s a bit of a stretch," Acevedo said. "She obviously isn’t getting any of that salary directly, instead the theory that’s been put forward is that she’s getting gifts from Wade from the salary that he’s being paid to prosecute these defendants."

Following the money in the DA Willis hearing

Willis maintained that she paid Wade back for their vacations abroad, mostly in cash.

But Acevedo said, either way, it's a bad look for the prosecution and that will be a factor in McAfee's ruling.

"Reimbursement in cash, the discovering about the start of the relationship, that makes it possible that there could be a recusal here simply because of that appearance of impropriety, even if there is nothing actually wrong," the professor said. 


It will be at least a week before the lawyers give closing statements on the conflict-of-interest question. 

If the judge doesn't remove either prosecutor, the trial could still be on track to begin in August. 

Acevedo said it's possible, but very likely not practical, there will be a verdict before the November election.

"I would say it’s very unlikely, theoretically possible, but very unlikely that we get a verdict before November," Acevedo said.