(Bloomberg) -- Atlanta-area prosecutor Fani Willis has backed off her effort to disqualify a lawyer from representing alternate electors pledged to former President Donald Trump after the 2020 election as he tried to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia.
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The Fulton County District Attorney’s legal surrender involves a group of 16 Republicans who pledged to act as Trump electors in the weeks after Biden won the presidency. Willis is investigating the group, which she’s dubbed “fake electors,” as she weighs whether to charge Trump and his allies with various election-related crimes. Willis has said the electors signed their names to a false certificate of vote “purporting to be the duly elected and qualified presidential electors” for Georgia.
In April, Willis had raised ethical objections to an attorney who represented 10 electors, saying the lawyer, Kimberly Bourroughs Debrow, had impermissible conflicts of interest because several of her clients accused another one of crimes. Willis also claimed Debrow failed to inform some electors of immunity offers last year.
But in a May 5 court filing, Debrow accused Willis of misleading a judge about whether her clients had been offered immunity from prosecution in exchange for their cooperation.
Debrow said she now represents eight of those 10, and all reached immunity deals with Willis. Two have hired other lawyers.
In a court filing Wednesday, Willis said that Debrow has allayed her initial “grave concerns” about Debrow representing “clients with differing levels of criminal exposure and differing status as to offers of immunity.”
The two electors Debrow once represented who haven’t been offered immunity “have hired new, conflict-free counsel and have eliminated the conflict causing the state’s concern,” Willis wrote. Because Debrow’s remaining eight clients took the immunity offers, prosecutors no longer seek the lawyer’s disqualification, she wrote.
“The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office wrongfully accused me of unethical conduct while fully knowing that it was untrue,” Debrow said in an emailed statement. “The non-immunized electors began hiring new counsel on my advice well before the DA filed her frivolous motion. The better use of taxpayer dollars would have been to first confirm the facts.”
Willis said last month she will announce charging decisions between July 11 and Sept. 1. Willis wrote to local law enforcement to bring “attention to the need for heightened security and preparedness in the coming months due to this pending announcement.”
--With assistance from Margaret Newkirk.
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