What We Know About Fani Willis, the Prosecutor Leading the Georgia Election Case Against Donald Trump
What We Know About Fani Willis, the Prosecutor Leading the Georgia Election Case Against Donald Trump

By Katabella Roberts

Former President Donald Trump was indicted for the fourth time this year on Aug. 14, this time as part of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ probe into claims that he and others attempted to dispute the results of the 2020 election in the state of Georgia.

The 98-page indictment lists a total of 19 defendants—including President Trump—and 41 criminal counts in all; with charges varying from making and filing false statements to the solicitation of high-ranking Justice Department officials and state legislatures, conspiracy to defraud the state, and perjury.

All of the defendants were charged with at least one count of violating the Georgia RICO Act—the Racketeer Influenced And Corrupt Organizations Act- which is typically used to target members of organized crime groups and carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

President Trump and his co-defendants have denied wrongdoing.

Announcing the latest indictment Monday, Ms. Willis, said she plans to try all the defendants listed in the indictment together and gave them until noon on Aug. 25 to voluntarily surrender in Georgia instead of facing arrest.

“Rather than abide by Georgia’s legal process for election challenges, the defendants engaged in a criminal, racketeering enterprise to overturn Georgia’s presidential election result,” Willis said at a press conference.

Her case against President Trump and his co-defendants has thrust Ms. Willis into the spotlight and sparked mixed reactions among both Democrats and Republicans.

Here’s everything we know about Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

Born in Inglewood, California, Ms. Willis is a Democrat whose father is a former Black Panther.

She graduated from Howard University in Washington in 1992 and later from Emory University School of Law in 1996, according to the Fulton County office’s website.

She began her career as an assistant district attorney for Fulton County in 2001, working there until 2018 when she left to open her own law firm—The Offices of Fani T. Willis—where she specialized in criminal defense and family law.

Willis Launches Probe Into Trump, Allies

During her time as an assistant district attorney for Fulton County, Ms. Willis also established a non-profit organization, “Love for Carla” which raises awareness for sickle cell anemia.

In 2018, she ran, unsuccessfully, for a seat on the Superior Court of Fulton County but later became the chief municipal judge for South Fulton, Georgia, in 2019, after the City Council fired its first judge, Tiffany Sellers, amid allegations of misconduct and bullying, which Ms. Sellers denied.

Ms. Willis became Fulton County’s first female District Attorney in 2020 after unseating longtime DA Paul Howard, who served six terms. Her campaign focused heavily on fixing a “broken” Fulton County district attorney’s office that lacked “professionalism.”

Fulton County spans 15 cities in Georgia, including Atlanta.

Ms. Willis had been in office as District Attorney for just a short period of time when President Trump placed a phone call to Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Jan. 2, 2021, and stated: “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more that we have because we won the state.”

She subsequently opened an investigation into the phone call and alleged attempts by President Trump and his allies to dispute the results of the 2020 election in the state; often taking an aggressive approach including subpoenaing some close to him such as Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, both of whom were also indicted alongside President Trump on Monday.

In other instances, Ms. Willis launched multiple court battles in order to compel their testimony.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re rich, poor, black, white, Democrat or Republican,” Ms. Willis told CNN last year. “If you violated the law, you’re going to be charged.”

Former President Donald Trump on stage before delivering remarks at Windham High School in Windham, N.H. on Aug. 8, 2023. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

President Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has accused the latest indictment against him of being politically motivated and amounting to “election interference.”

Speaking to Fox News on Aug. 15, President Trump called the indictment “a continuation of the greatest and longest-running witch hunt in American history,” adding that it is “not even conceivable that a person with such a record of failure could be allowed to interrupt perhaps the most important election in the history of our country.”

He further noted rising crime rates in her district under her leadership as well as her recently-launched fundraising website—reportedly aimed at building a brighter future for Fulton County—which he claimed was being used “in order to benefit off the things she most campaigned on, ‘I will get Donald Trump.'”

President Trump has previously accused Ms. Willis, a mother of two, of using her investigation as a means of fundraising.

During Monday’s interview, President Trump said Ms. Willis “should focus on the people that rigged the 2020 presidential election, not those who demand an answer as to what happened.”

“Just like she has allowed Atlanta to go to hell with all of its crime and violence, so too has Joe Biden allowed the United States of America to go to the same place with millions of people invading our country, inflation, bad economy, no energy, and lack of respect all over the world,” he said.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks during a news conference at the Fulton County Government building in Atlanta, Ga., on Aug. 14, 2023. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Concerns Over ‘Accidental’ Release of Indictment

The latest indictment against President Trump charges him with, among other things, A violation of Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO Act).

Ms. Willis has been involved in numerous other cases alleging violations of the RICO act during her career, including in 2015 when she helped prosecute multiple teachers from Atlanta-area schools who allegedly cheated to improve the standardized test scores of their students in return for cash bonuses and promotions.

A similar case in 2022 levied the same RICO act violation charges against rapper Young Thug—whose real name is Jeffrey Lamar Williams— who was among 28 individuals arrested due to alleged gang activity.

Despite her experience in crimes alleging violations of the RICO act, some experts have raised concerns over Ms. Willis’ latest indictment against President Trump, citing the accidental release of the charges against him before they were officially announced and while a grand jury was still hearing testimony from witnesses regarding the case.

In an interview with EpochTV’s “Crossroads” on Aug. 15, Kash Patel, the former chief of staff to acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller and former terrorism prosecutor at the Department of Justice, called the accidental release of the charges “unlawful behavior.”

“I can tell you as an officer of the court, the one rule of law in every state, all 50, and all federal jurisdictions is anything that happens in a grand jury is prohibited from release. Grand jury testimony, collection of documents, sorting of evidence, and an indictment,” Mr. Patel said.

Mr. Patel, who now hosts a program on EpochTV, said the leaking of the charges against President Trump prior to the official announcement of the indictment “is an offense in court” and that Ms. Willis should be held in contempt of court.

The president’s spokeswoman, Liz Harrington, also raised concerns about the accidental leak of the charges against President Trump when speaking to EpochTV’s “Crossroads,” although the clerk of the Fulton County, Georgia, court system has said the incident was down to a “trial run.”

In March, attorneys for Trump requested Ms. Willis be disqualified from the case and her evidence be declared “unconstitutionally derived.”

However, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney last week rejected President Trump’s efforts to have Ms. Willis removed from the case, ruling that he lacked legal standing for such a request.

Catherine Yang and Reuters contributed to this report.

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