But Thompson said Nathan Wade should first be deposed before he determines whether Willis possesses ”unique personal knowledge” that would require her to be questioned under oath by attorneys for Joycelyn Wade. An evidentiary hearing in the divorce case is set for Jan. 31.
“Without me knowing what Mr. Wade would say it seems to me that Mr. Wade would be the first and best source of information on what his income has been and how he’s been spending it,” the judge said. “And that he would have first-hand knowledge of whether he’s engaged in an extramarital affair.”
The determination came at the tail-end of a 30-minute hearing that was closely watched by the media.
Thompson also unsealed the Wades’ divorce file, which included financial statements and other records which had not been previously public.
Ashleigh Merchant, an attorney for Roman who made the allegations about Willis and Wade in a court filing earlier this month, had argued in favor of unsealing the divorce records. She said they were improperly sealed in early 2022 without a judge first holding a hearing as required by law and suggested they contained evidence about the prosecutors’ alleged personal relationship.
On Friday, Joycelyn Wade’s attorney released information that seemed to support Merchant’s allegation: credit card statements from Nathan Wade that showed he paid for airline tickets for Willis to San Francisco and the Caribbean in 2022 and 2023.
Nathan Wade filed for divorce on Nov. 2, 2021 and in a court filing he said they had been living separately since August of that year.
Merchant has argued that Willis has a conflict of interest that warrants the dismissal of charges against Roman, a former Trump campaign operative, and for the DA and her entire office to be removed from the broader case. She contended that the alleged relationship was improper because Willis financially benefited from the vacations paid for by Nathan Wade, who’s earned roughly $654,000 in legal fees for his work on the election case.
A coalition of 15 media organizations, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, also pushed for the records to be unsealed.
Merchant’s accusations have been seized on by critics of the probe, which resulted in felony racketeering charges against Trump, onetime White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and 17 others. Willis has declined to directly address the relationship allegations, but in an impassioned speech at Atlanta’s Big Bethel AME Church last week, Willis described herself as a “very flawed, hard-headed and imperfect” person. She also defended Wade’s credentials and suggested critics were attacking her and Wade because they are Black.
Willis is required to respond to Roman’s allegations in a court filing due February 2. Fulton Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who is overseeing the Trump case, has scheduled an evidentiary hearing on the matter for February 15.
Neither of the Wades nor Willis were in attendance at the divorce hearing on Monday.
Scott Kimbrough, Nathan Wade’s attorney, said the parties agreed to seal the case two years ago to protect their privacy. He said the substantial media attention over the last two weeks showed “the harm that is done” if the case were to be unsealed.
Joycelyn Wade’s attorney, Andrea Dyer Hastings, did not contest unsealing the records.
Thompson ultimately agreed with Merchant that the case was improperly sealed by Superior Court Judge Angela Brown without first holding a hearing. (Brown later recused herself from the case.) Within minutes of the hearing ending, the case records had appeared on the court’s website.
The judge then moved to the matter of whether Willis should be forced to sit for a deposition on Tuesday. He honed in on a code section that allows judges to enter protective orders that halt depositions of “certain high-ranking members of a government body.” And, in this case, Willis must show that she lacks “unique personal knowledge” of a matter that is relevant to the pending divorce case, Thompson said.
He then asked Cinque Axam, Willis’ attorney, “Are you saying your client lacks unique personal knowledge that could not be discovered some other way?”
“The knowledge she may or may not have is not unique,” Axam replied. “You’ve got two parties in the case, one that is alleged to have some extramarital affair with Ms. Willis. If that is the case, if that is true, (Nathan Wade) has that information.”
Hastings countered that Willis’ motion to quash her subpoena showed she has unique knowledge. This included what she said was a false claim in a court filing last week that the marriage was broken when Joycelyn Wade had an adulterous affair, Hastings said.
“We have questions,” Hastings said. “I want to know about how he’s been spending his money. I have reason to believe he’s been spending it on another woman. That’s my client’s money.”
Axam said Willis could not testify to any of the key matters in the divorce, which is focused on the equitable division of marital assets.
“Ms. Willis does not share any accounts with” Nathan Wade, Axam said. “DA Willis does not determine what he spends his money on, no matter where it comes from.”
Hastings accused Willis of “trying to hide under the shield of her position improperly.”
“We’re not seeking her deposition as the district attorney of Fulton County,” she said. “We’re seeking her deposition in her individual capacity as the alleged paramour of my client’s husband.”
“I’m sure it’s inconvenient, it’s inconvenient for all of us,” Hastings said. “However, I have questions and she needs to answer them.”
When Hastings began to argue that Axam, in his motion filed last week, accused Joycelyn Wade of obstructing and interfering with the election interference case, Thompson cut her off. He said he wanted to stay focused on the code section involving high-ranking government officials.