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A special prosecutor who had a romantic relationship with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis formally withdrew Friday from the Georgia election interference case against former President Donald Trump after a judge ruled one of them had to leave the case for it to move forward.Attorney Nathan Wade’s role in the prosecution had come under fire since an attorney representing one of Trump’s co-defendants alleged in early January that Wade and Willis were involved in an inappropriate relationship that resulted in Willis profiting improperly from the prosecution.Wade offered his resignation in a letter to Willis, saying he was doing so “in the interest of democracy.’Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee had ruled Friday that Wade had to be removed or Willis must step aside from the case. McAfee did not find that Willis’ relationship with Wade amounted to a conflict of interest that should disqualify her from the case. However, he said, the allegations created an “appearance of impropriety” that infected the prosecution team.THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis must step aside from the Georgia election interference case against Donald Trump or remove the special prosecutor with whom she had a romantic relationship before the case can proceed, the judge overseeing it ruled Friday.Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee said he did not conclude that Willis’ relationship with special prosecutor Nathan Wade amounted to a conflict of interest. However, he said, it created an “appearance of impropriety” that infected the prosecution team.“As the case moves forward, reasonable members of the public could easily be left to wonder whether the financial exchanges have continued resulting in some form of benefit to the District Attorney, or even whether the romantic relationship has resumed,” the judge wrote.”Put differently, an outsider could reasonably think that the District Attorney is not exercising her independent professional judgment totally free of any compromising influences. As long as Wade remains on the case, this unnecessary perception will persist.”Willis and Wade testified at a hearing last month that they had engaged in a romantic relationship, but they rejected the idea that Willis improperly benefited from it, as lawyers for Trump and some of his co-defendants alleged.McAfee wrote that there was insufficient evidence that Willis had a personal stake in the prosecution, but he said his finding “is by no means an indication that the Court condones this tremendous lapse in judgement or the unprofessional manner of the District Attorney’s testimony during the evidentiary hearing.”The judge said he believes that “Georgia law does not permit the finding of an actual conflict for simply making bad choices — even repeatedly — and it is the trial court’s duty to confine itself to the relevant issues and applicable law properly brought before it.”An attorney for co-defendant Michael Roman asked McAfee to dismiss the indictment and prevent Willis and Wade and their offices from continuing to prosecute the case. The attorney, Ashleigh Merchant, alleged that Willis paid Wade large sums for his work and then improperly benefited from the prosecution of the case when Wade used his earnings to pay for vacations for the two of them.Willis had insisted that the relationship created no financial or personal conflict of interest that justified removing her office from the case. She and Wade both testified that their relationship began in the spring of 2022 and ended in the summer of 2023. They both said that Willis either paid for things herself or used cash to reimburse Wade for travel expenses.The sprawling indictment charges Trump and more than a dozen other defendants with violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO. The case uses a statute normally associated with mobsters to accuse the former president, lawyers and other aides of a “criminal enterprise” to keep him in power after he lost the 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden.Trump, Republicans’ presumptive presidential nominee for 2024, has denied doing anything wrong and pleaded not guilty.

A special prosecutor who had a romantic relationship with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis formally withdrew Friday from the Georgia election interference case against former President Donald Trump after a judge ruled one of them had to leave the case for it to move forward.

Attorney Nathan Wade’s role in the prosecution had come under fire since an attorney representing one of Trump’s co-defendants alleged in early January that Wade and Willis were involved in an inappropriate relationship that resulted in Willis profiting improperly from the prosecution.

Wade offered his resignation in a letter to Willis, saying he was doing so “in the interest of democracy.’

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee had ruled Friday that Wade had to be removed or Willis must step aside from the case. McAfee did not find that Willis’ relationship with Wade amounted to a conflict of interest that should disqualify her from the case. However, he said, the allegations created an “appearance of impropriety” that infected the prosecution team.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis must step aside from the Georgia election interference case against Donald Trump or remove the special prosecutor with whom she had a romantic relationship before the case can proceed, the judge overseeing it ruled Friday.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee said he did not conclude that Willis’ relationship with special prosecutor Nathan Wade amounted to a conflict of interest. However, he said, it created an “appearance of impropriety” that infected the prosecution team.

“As the case moves forward, reasonable members of the public could easily be left to wonder whether the financial exchanges have continued resulting in some form of benefit to the District Attorney, or even whether the romantic relationship has resumed,” the judge wrote.

“Put differently, an outsider could reasonably think that the District Attorney is not exercising her independent professional judgment totally free of any compromising influences. As long as Wade remains on the case, this unnecessary perception will persist.”

Willis and Wade testified at a hearing last month that they had engaged in a romantic relationship, but they rejected the idea that Willis improperly benefited from it, as lawyers for Trump and some of his co-defendants alleged.

McAfee wrote that there was insufficient evidence that Willis had a personal stake in the prosecution, but he said his finding “is by no means an indication that the Court condones this tremendous lapse in judgement or the unprofessional manner of the District Attorney’s testimony during the evidentiary hearing.”

The judge said he believes that “Georgia law does not permit the finding of an actual conflict for simply making bad choices — even repeatedly — and it is the trial court’s duty to confine itself to the relevant issues and applicable law properly brought before it.”

An attorney for co-defendant Michael Roman asked McAfee to dismiss the indictment and prevent Willis and Wade and their offices from continuing to prosecute the case. The attorney, Ashleigh Merchant, alleged that Willis paid Wade large sums for his work and then improperly benefited from the prosecution of the case when Wade used his earnings to pay for vacations for the two of them.

Willis had insisted that the relationship created no financial or personal conflict of interest that justified removing her office from the case. She and Wade both testified that their relationship began in the spring of 2022 and ended in the summer of 2023. They both said that Willis either paid for things herself or used cash to reimburse Wade for travel expenses.

The sprawling indictment charges Trump and more than a dozen other defendants with violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO. The case uses a statute normally associated with mobsters to accuse the former president, lawyers and other aides of a “criminal enterprise” to keep him in power after he lost the 2020 election to Democrat Joe Biden.

Trump, Republicans’ presumptive presidential nominee for 2024, has denied doing anything wrong and pleaded not guilty.



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