By Catherine Yang
An attorney representing one of the defendants in the high-profile election racketeering case, which Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is prosecuting, is countersuing the district attorney for allegedly failing to produce documents to the defense and “intentionally withholding information” in violation of state law.
Attorney Ashleigh Merchant, of the Georgia-based Merchant Law Firm, sued the district attorney’s office on Jan. 30, revealing in the lawsuit that Ms. Willis has been subpoenaed to testify at an upcoming Feb. 15 hearing during which prosecutors will have to address allegations Ms. Merchant made in a shocking filing earlier this month. Ms. Merchant is also suing for documents regarding several other contractors on Ms. Willis’s team.
Ms. Merchant represents Michael Roman, a GOP strategist who was involved in the 2020 Trump Campaign. Mr. Roman, former President Donald Trump, and 13 others are defendants in a large-scale case alleging their efforts to challenge the 2020 election results violated Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and amounted to 40 other crimes.
Mr. Roman had accused the district attorney of improperly and personally profiting from public funds, using monies meant to clear COVID-era backlogs to hire an attorney she was having a romantic relationship with, who then took Ms. Willis on “lavish” vacations after receiving close to $700,000 in payment from her office.
He is arguing that the conduct of the district attorney compromises the case and is seeking to dismiss the indictment and disqualify Ms. Willis and Nathan Wade, the attorney hired to prosecute the election case.
Neither Ms. Willis nor Mr. Wade have publicly responded to questions about the nature of their relationship.
At the time the motion was filed, Mr. Wade was in the middle of what appeared to be a contentious divorce according to court filings, and Mr. Wade had been subpoenaed by Joycelyn Wade, Mr. Wade’s wife, for a deposition regarding fees Mr. Wade was paid. In court filings, Ms. Wade disclosed bank records showing expenses for multiple vacations, including flight tickets in Ms. Willis’s name. Mr. Wade settled the divorce case on Jan. 30, avoiding testimony and the possibility of having Ms. Willis deposed.
Mr. Wade was one of the prosecutors Ms. Merchant has subpoenaed to testify in the election case.
“Mr. Roman has subpoenaed Willis and Wade to testify at the February 15, 2024 hearing,” the lawsuit reads.
The nature of the relationship has become an issue because it speaks to whether the district attorney “has otherwise used public monies for her personal gain,” Ms. Merchant argues.
The district attorney’s office did not respond to inquiries from The Epoch Times.
Under Georgia’s Open Records Act, the public has the right to access government records to “evaluate the expenditure of public funds and the efficient and proper functioning of its institutions.”
Ms. Merchant argued that the District Attorney’s Office has “refused, without adequate explanation” to provide such information, which she is seeking in her defense of Mr. Roman.
These reports include payments to “third party media companies that were hired (with taxpayer funds) to track the impact of Ms. Willis’ statements to the media and whether such statements were viewed favorably by the public,” the lawsuit reads, adding that this contract began shortly before Ms. Willis brought her election case.
Ms. Merchant is requesting all bids, contracts, or agreements for the appointment and payment for the contractors: The Law Offices of Nathan Wade, Christopher Campbell PC, The Cross Firm LLC, Anna Cross, Bondurant Mixon & Elmore LLP, and Terrance Bradley.
She had made the request Sept. 7, 2023, less than a month after the indictment, and followed up several times before her request was closed without response.
“One can only assume that this was done intentionally with the hope that Ms. Merchant would simply accept that the request had been ‘closed’ with all documents provided and move on,” she added in a footnote.
She made further requests, including more specific requests for specific invoices paid to Mr. Wade, Terrence Bradley, Anna Cross, and John Floyd, another attorney prosecuting the election case. Another request for a list of all attorneys Ms. Willis has hired came back empty. Several requests for files regarding Ms. Willis also remain unfulfilled.
Other Lawsuits, Investigations
Separately, Judicial Watch sued the district attorney for documents regarding the hiring of Mr. Wade on Jan. 30, after Fulton County failed to respond to an earlier request for the files under Georgia’s Open Records Act.
“Fani Willis’ politicized and unprecedented prosecution of former President Trump has been further compromised by credible allegations of personal corruption tied to the hiring of Nathan Wade as special prosecutor!” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton stated. “That Judicial Watch had to file a lawsuit to try to get records about this scandal further suggests that there is something to hide.”
Ms. Willis may also face an investigation by Georgia lawmakers, who on Jan. 29 passed a bill to give an oversight panel the ability to remove prosecutors for misconduct. A Georgia Republican has also introduced a resolution to impeach Ms. Willis.
Mr. Roman’s allegations have created much negative attention for the district attorney but it is yet unclear how it may impact the election case.
A Fulton County Superior Court judge has given the district attorney a Feb. 2 deadline to file a response to Mr. Roman’s motion to dismiss.