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Key witness in Trump Georgia case testifies on timing of Willis-Wade relationship

Key witness in Trump Georgia case testifies on timing of Willis-Wade relationship

 


In a potential setback for former President Donald J. Trump and his co-defendants in the Georgia election interference case, a key witness testified Tuesday that he had no knowledge of when a romantic relationship began between the two prosecutors leading the case.

Defense attorneys seek to disqualify Fulton County prosecutor Fani T. Willis, saying her romantic relationship with the lawyer she hired to lead the case, Nathan Wade, created a conflict of interest untenable.

Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade have said their relationship did not begin until after he was hired in November 2021. Mr. Trump's lawyer accused them of lying.

For weeks, the defense had suggested that the key witness, Terrence Bradley, a former divorce lawyer and associate of Mr. Wade, could provide crucial testimony contradicting Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade. But Mr Bradley told the court on Tuesday that I did not know when the relationship began and he never saw anything.

Lawyers for Mr. Trump and other defendants hammered Mr. Bradley's credibility on Tuesday, reading aloud text messages he wrote in January that appeared to suggest he knew more about the relationship with prosecutors than 'he didn't let on. In text message exchanges, Mr. Bradley told a defense attorney, Ashleigh Merchant, that the romance between the prosecutors began before Nov. 1, 2021, when Ms. Willis hired Mr. Wade.

Do you think this happened before she hired him? Ms Merchant asked Mr Bradley in an exchange of texts, which was entered into evidence. Absolutely, Mr. Bradley replied.

But on the stand Tuesday, Mr. Bradley insisted that he was only speculating about the relationship in those texts and was not speaking from knowledge.

It was the third time Mr. Bradley took the witness stand this month, in a series of hearings that threatened to upend the prosecution of Mr. Trump and his allies for trying to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. The defense team contends that the two prosecutors engaged in self-dealing because Mr. Wade spent money on a vacation he took with Ms. Willis while he was paid by her office. .

Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade denied any improper financial advantage and testified that they roughly split the cost of their vacations to places like the Caribbean and Napa Valley.

The extraordinary twist that the election interference case has taken, forcing top prosecutors to fight accusations of impropriety, may have fundamentally changed the situation. Even if the presiding judge allows Ms. Willis to proceed with the case, she risks facing scrutiny in the future, including from a new state commission that could remove prosecutors and from the Senate. Georgia, which opened an investigation.

And if the case is taken away from Ms. Willis and her team, bigger problems could follow.

The accusations first surfaced in a court filing last month by Ms. Merchant, a lawyer for Michael Roman, a former Trump campaign official who is among the defendants. His efforts to disqualify Ms. Willis, Mr. Wade and Ms. Willis's entire office appear to rely largely on his recent communications with Mr. Bradley.

Mr Bradley fell out with Mr Wade in recent years as their business relationship deteriorated. At a previous hearing it emerged that Mr Bradley had been accused of sexually assaulting a female employee at the company, an allegation he categorically denied.

Mr. Bradley clearly had no desire to testify about his former associate and was reluctant each time he took the stand.

During a court appearance this month, he refused to answer questions related to what he knew about the romance, citing attorney-client privilege and other rules that prevent lawyers from disclosing their communications with their customers.

But Scott McAfee, the Fulton County Superior Court judge overseeing the case, said Tuesday that neither Mr. Wade nor Mr. Bradley had succeeded in establishing that attorney-client privilege applied in to the extent that it would prevent him from answering all the questions. questions.

Mr. Bradley arrived in court on Tuesday afternoon in a checked suit and looking somber to face hostile questions from a series of defense lawyers.

I don't know if it started, or when it started, he told Ms. Merchant about the relationship between Mr. Wade and Ms. Willis, a claim he made several times. He also said he has not spoken to any of the prosecutors since the allegations were made, nor recently.

Steven H. Sadow, Mr. Trump's lawyer, insisted his text message exchanges with Ms. Merchant indicated that the relationship began before Mr. Wade was hired. Why speculate and say that in a text? asked Mr. Sadow, repeating the question several times.

I don't remember why I thought it started at that time, Mr Bradley replied, before later reiterating that he was just speculating.

Judge McAfee also appears to be looking in detail at how the two prosecutors split the costs of vacations they took together. Delta Air Lines provided records to the court that were sealed, the judge said in an order filed Monday. Delta was among the airlines that Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade used for their private trips, according to previously released documents.

Another hearing is scheduled for Friday. Judge McAfee said he would not rule from the bench, meaning a decision is not expected until next week at the earliest.

Among the issues that could arise Friday are phone records obtained through a subpoena, which Mr. Sadow said show just under 12,000 calls and text messages between Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade during the first 11 months of 2021, before his hiring. him.

A filing from Mr. Sadow last week also said cellphone location data suggested Mr. Wade was near Ms. Williss's residence from late at night until dawn on two occasions during of this period.

However, this data is often limited in the extent to which it allows the precise location of a person. And Ms. Williss's office said the data did not prove that Special Prosecutor Wade was at any particular location or address.

At an earlier hearing, a witness named Robin Yeartie, a former friend of Ms. Willis and a former employee of the district attorney's office, testified that the romance began before Mr. Wade was hired. As with Mr. Bradley, the judge will have to assess the credibility of Ms. Yeartie, who left the prosecutor's office on bad terms, effectively ending her friendship with Ms. Willis.

Ms. Willis, in her own dramatic testimony this month, said the romance ended before Mr. Trump was indicted in August and vigorously defended his conduct and her case.

These people are on trial for trying to steal an election in 2020, she told Ms Merchant. I am not judged, no matter how hard you try to judge me.

Sources

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2/ https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/27/us/trump-georgia-fani-willis-terrence-bradley.html

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