Georgia decision not to disqualify DA Fani Willis is appealed by Trump, Giuliani, and others

Former President Donald Trump and eight co-defendants, who have been charged with conspiring to commit election fraud in Georgia, are persistently seeking the removal of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis from the prosecution. Taking their fight forward, the nine defendants have filed a petition with a state appeals court on Friday, requesting the court to hear their appeal. This appeal challenges the judge’s ruling that permitted Willis to remain involved in the case, despite her involvement in an affair with a private lawyer whom she had hired to oversee the investigation.

Lawyers representing Trump and the co-defendants sought permission to appeal Judge Scott McAfee’s ruling. Earlier this month, the Republican-appointed judge granted their request for an emergency review.

Trump, along with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and others, must now convince a panel of Georgia Court of Appeals judges to consider their case. If the judges decline, the case will proceed to trial.

The trial date has not been scheduled yet, but Willis has expressed her desire to start it well before the upcoming November 5th election. This election will see Trump facing off against President Joe Biden once again, after Biden’s victory in the state during the 2020 election.

Trump and 14 others face accusations of attempting to invalidate the election results in Georgia. One of the methods they allegedly employed was the creation of a fraudulent group of electors to replace those representing Biden’s victory in the state. Willis, the prosecutor, is pursuing charges under Georgia’s RICO statute, which alleges that multiple individuals conspired with the shared objective of overturning the election.

In their appeal on Friday, the lawyers contend that McAfee’s decision on March 15 was not sufficient. McAfee had ordered Willis to either terminate special prosecutor Nathan Wade or resign from her position due to their romantic involvement. Wade subsequently resigned later that day.

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Led by Steven Sadow, the defense lawyers are now requesting the appellate court to remove Willis and the entire Fulton County DA’s office from the case and dismiss it.

According to a statement from Sadow, the appeal reiterates the defense’s previous arguments, including the contention that “the indictment should have been dismissed and, at a minimum, DA Willis and her office should have been disqualified from prosecuting the case.”

Defense attorney Sadow wrote a letter urging the Georgia Court of Appeals to accept the application and consider the interlocutory appeal on its merits.

Case’s ‘importance’ requires emergency review

According to Georgia law, defense lawyers had to request McAfee to grant a certificate of immediate review. This would authorize them to file an emergency appeal to the appellate court before the trial could begin.

In their request, they argued that McAfee’s decision to permit Willis to remain on the case is crucial enough to warrant immediate review. They also highlighted McAfee’s strong disapproval of her relationship with Wade and the vacations they went on together, despite sparing Willis.

“McAfee also expressed his belief that there is a lingering sense of dishonesty, stating that Willis and Wade had greatly undermined their credibility while giving their testimonies. Consequently, he raised doubts about the truthfulness of their statements regarding the timeline of their relationship, which they claimed started after Wade became involved in the case.”

An ‘erroneous’ failure to disqualify

The defense lawyers presented several compelling arguments in their appeal on Friday, urging the appellate panel of judges to either overturn McAfee’s ruling or dismiss the case.

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According to the defense lawyers, McAfee’s decision not to disqualify Willis was a mistake and it violated their clients’ right to due process. They also argue that Willis engaged in forensic misconduct by making racially charged comments about the case, potentially biasing the jury against the defendants.

According to their argument, McAfee made a mistake in concluding that DA Willis did not have a personal interest in this case due to her actual conflicts of interest. They further claimed that the judge also made an error by not disqualifying DA Willis based on the appearance of a conflict or impropriety.

Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Trump 2020 campaign staffer Michael Roman, who initially revealed Willis’ romantic relationship with Wade in a groundbreaking Jan. 8 motion to disqualify her, are among those who are seeking the appeal.

An ‘odor of mendacity’: Fani Willis decision is far from over in Trump election fraud case.

Election fraud case to go forward while emergency appeal is considered

McAfee has expressed his intention to give both the prosecution and defense ample time to prepare for the trial, despite the fact that a specific date has not yet been set.

In his decision permitting the emergency appeal, McAfee wrote that the Fulton County Superior Court plans to proceed with addressing the numerous other pending pretrial motions, regardless of whether the petition is granted.

The Georgia appellate court must make a decision within 45 days regarding whether to hear the case.

If the appeals court agrees to hear the case, it has the potential to disqualify Willis and the entire Fulton County district attorney’s office. This would result in a significant delay in the prosecution of the sweeping election interference, as a new prosecutor or DA’s office would need to be chosen to take over the case.

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According to Clark Cunningham, a law and ethics professor at Georgia State University College of Law, it is possible that the Court of Appeals may choose not to hear the case. He points out that the Court has a tendency to defer to the judgement of the initial judge.

According to him, regardless of the outcome, it is highly likely that the losing party will file an appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court. This further reduces the chances of Trump and other individuals appearing before a jury prior to the Election Day on November 5th.

According to Ashleigh Merchant, a lawyer representing Roman, she and the defense team are prepared to take their appeal to the state’s highest court if the appellate judges decline to hear their case or rule unfavorably.

According to Merchant, the judges in the appeals court have the option to send the disqualification issue back to McAfee, indicating that he made some errors and instructing him to rectify them. Alternatively, they could choose not to make a decision, resulting in the case being escalated to the Supreme Court.

According to Merchant, the decision on whether or not she is disqualified will not be made quickly. It will take at least a couple of months for this matter to be resolved and for a determination to be reached.

According to Merchant, it is highly unlikely that this could occur before the election. He emphasized that the appellate process typically takes around six months to complete once it has been initiated, and currently, we have not even reached that stage yet. We are still in the early stages of the process.

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