Fulton DA accuses special prosecutor’s wife of ‘interfering’ with Trump probe

Judge sets Feb. 15 hearing to consider allegations of ‘improper’ relationship

Fulton County’s district attorney on Thursday fired back at allegations she has engaged in an “improper” relationship with her top deputy, accusing his estranged wife of trying to obstruct her prosecution of Donald Trump and his allies.

Fani Willis has been subpoenaed to give a pretrial deposition in the divorce case of Nathan and Joycelyn Wade on January 23, but in a blistering court filing on Thursday the DA’s attorney said that subpoena should be quashed.

Joycelyn Wade “has conspired with interested parties in the criminal election interference case to use the civil discovery process to annoy, embarrass and oppress District Attorney Willis,” argued Cinque Axam on Willis’ behalf.

Questions about the DA and special prosecutor Nathan Wade burst into public view last week when Ashleigh Merchant, an attorney for Trump codefendant Mike Roman, contended in a court filing that the two were in a romantic relationship. Merchant also alleged, without providing proof, that Willis has benefited financially from the relationship, with the DA going on “lavish” vacations paid by Wade with money he made from Fulton County.

Merchant did not include evidence of the alleged relationship between Willis and Wade but suggested that it was tied up in Wade’s divorce case, the documents for which have been sealed. A hearing on whether to unseal the proceedings is scheduled for January 31 in Cobb County Superior Court. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and 14 other media outlets have filed a motion asking to unseal the divorce records.

Willis noted that on January 8, the same day Roman’s filing was made public, she was served a subpoena and Merchant moved to unseal the Wades’ divorce case, which has been conducted in private since February 2022.

“Defendant Joycelyn Wade has not objected to Michael Roman’s motion to unseal the proceedings despite having previously sought it and having benefited from its protection for more than two years,” Axam argued.

Joycelyn Wade’s attorney, Andrea Dyer Hastings, said she aims to help her client resolve her divorce “fairly and privately” and that she would respond to Willis’ claims in writing through the court.

Merchant said Thursday that “Ms. Willis alleges that her deposition is being sought in an attempt to harass and damage her reputation. Why would her truthful testimony risk damaging her reputation?”

Merchant added, “We believe her filing in Cobb County is just another attempt to avoid having to directly answer the important questions Mr. Roman has raised. She appears to be doing everything she can to avoid having to account for inconvenient and difficult facts.”

Willis did not address the nature of her relationship with Wade in the court filing.

Instead, she said Joycelyn Wade did not provide a relevant reason for deposing her “in an uncontested no-fault divorce where the parties have been separated for over two years.”

It “suggests that Defendant Joycelyn Wade is using the legal process to harass and embarrass District Attorney Willis, and in doing so, is obstructing and interfering with an ongoing criminal prosecutions,” the veteran prosecutor argued. Obstruction is considered a crime in Georgia.

Willis’ motion also said the Wades’ marriage was broken after Joycelyn Wade confessed to having an adulterous relationship with a longtime friend of Nathan Wade’s.

District Attorney Fani Willis, center, confers with lead prosecutors, Donald Wakeford, left, and Nathan Wade, during a motion hearing at Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta on Friday, July 1, 2022. (Hyosub Shin/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

icon to expand image

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

“If, however, media reports are any indication, (Joycelyn Wade) may intend to ask questions regarding the nature of any relationship with (Nathan Wade),” the motion said. “Because the parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken and the concept of fault is not at issue, there is no information that District Attorney Willis could provide that might prove relevant to granting or denying the divorce.”

The filing also argued that Willis was improperly served her subpoena through a staff member.

The news came the same day that Fulton Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who is overseeing the Trump case, scheduled an evidentiary hearing on February 15 to examine Roman’s allegations about Wade and Willis.

McAfee’s brief scheduling order also directed Willis to file a written response by February 2.

Roman is asking for the charges against him to be dismissed and for Willis and her office to be removed from the broader case.

Attorneys for at least two other defendants in the case, including Trump, have indicated they’re examining the allegations against Willis and could sign onto Roman’s motion.

Willis so far has not addressed Roman’s underlying allegations, including if she inappropriately benefitted financially from him working on the Trump case.

But in an impassioned and defiant 35-minute speech on Sunday at Atlanta’s Big Bethel AME Church, Willis strongly defended Wade, his credentials and her own decision-making. She contended that detractors were “playing the race card” by criticizing the case’s only Black special prosecutor.