Ex-divorce lawyer’s testimony complicates Willis, Wade controversy

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Details of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s (D) romance with a special prosecutor overseeing former President Trump’s Georgia 2020 election interference case grew increasingly murky after a second round of testimony from a star witness this week.

The contradictions surrounding the timeline of Willis and Nathan Wade’s relationship are particularly troublesome, with the two prosecutors maintaining they didn’t begin seeing each other until after Willis hired Wade to oversee Trump’s case.

But witnesses in the probe involving their romance have sometimes suggested otherwise.

Terrence Bradley, the ex-law partner and divorce lawyer of Wade, recounted little new information on the witness stand Tuesday, saying dozens of times he couldn’t recall details of what Wade told him about Willis.

However, his sometimes-restrained testimony instilled a healthy dose of doubt and further muddied the waters around the relationship that could see both prosecutors booted from the case.

The defense is seeking to disqualify Willis, Wade and the entirety of the Fulton County district attorney’s office from continuing to prosecute the sweeping racketeering case against Trump and several allies.

At the heart of their argument is the timeline of Willis and Wade’s relationship, which defense attorneys say began prior to Wade’s hiring. The defense claims Willis has benefited from Wade’s employment via trips the pair took together while dating. Wade was hired in November 2021.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis testifies during a hearing on the Georgia election interference case, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Atlanta. (Alyssa Pointer/Pool Photo via AP)

Both prosecutors have maintained that they began dating in early 2022 — after Wade’s hiring — and broke it off in summer 2023, just before Trump’s indictment was handed down, insisting there is no conflict. But testimony this week threw their timeline further into question.

Ashleigh Merchant, an attorney for 2020 Trump campaign operative Michael Roman, who first publicly surfaced allegations of the relationship, presented Bradley with the defense’s silver bullet Tuesday: text messages showing the ex-Wade law partner confirming the defense’s timeline.

The texts put Bradley into an uncomfortable position as Merchant and others attempted to get him to admit to a disbarrable offense of gossiping about communications with his client, Wade. When called to testify at an earlier hearing, Bradley initially invoked attorney-client privilege to avoid answering questions; he was forced to return to the stand Tuesday after the judge found the privilege didn’t apply.

With Wade sitting just feet away and at times shaking his head, Bradley carefully walked the line of protecting his law license and his onetime friend — even as defense attorneys attempted to make things personal. At one point, an attorney questioned whether Bradley frequently lied about his friends, implying the lawyer either was telling the truth about the relationship timeline or lying about Wade.

In the texts, Merchant said, Bradley wrote that the prosecutors’ romance “absolutely” began before Willis hired Wade. Bradley confirmed he did “see that in the text messages.”

“And do you also recall me asking you how they would react — if they would attack me? And you said, ‘No, they will deny it?’” Merchant pressed on, drawing an objection from the state that the judge overruled.

“That’s written in there. Yes,” he replied.

When asked about the exchange, Bradley said his comments were “speculation.” Trump attorney Steve Sadow pushed back on that contention, questioning “why in the heck” he’d speculate on the matter. After some back and forth, Bradley replied he had “no answer” for why he speculated.

“What you want the court to believe and you want the rest of us to believe, is that for some unknown reason, upon being asked a direct question about when the relationship started, you decided on your own to simply speculate and put it down in a text message as opposed to putting down what you actually knew,” Sadow said, purporting Bradley does know when Willis and Wade began dating but didn’t want to testify to it in court.

Despite Bradley’s demurring on the witness stand, his text messages align with testimony given at an earlier hearing by an ex-friend of Willis. Robin Yeartie, who met Willis in college, testified earlier this month that Willis and Wade began a romantic relationship in 2019, after a municipal court conference — and several years earlier than the prosecutors have claimed, under oath. Willis dismissed Yeartie’s testimony.

However, near the end of Tuesday’s hearing, Bradley called his own credibility into question. Pressed by Richard Rice, an attorney representing defendant Bob Cheeley, Bradley indicated he could not recall if he had lied to Merchant — Roman’s defense attorney — in their correspondence.

“I don’t recall ever whether any of it was a lie or not,” he said.

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Tuesday’s hearing isn’t the final word on the matter.

Judge Scott McAfee will hear arguments from the attorneys Friday afternoon and will then proceed to craft a decision. He previously said the allegations against Willis and Wade “could result” in their disqualification if evidence shows an “actual conflict of interest or the appearance of one.”

McAfee did say he may look to consider additional evidence after Friday, if necessary, including an analysis of cellphone data offered by the defense that suggests Wade visited Willis’s condo dozens of times — sometimes late into the night — before they claim their relationship began.

The district attorney’s office has contested the reliability of the data, but the judge said he’ll only bring it into consideration if he feels he needs to after Friday’s arguments.

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