Five months ago, Georgia’s Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis was a hero among men and women, Black or otherwise.
She made headlines last August as the architect of the indictment of former President Donald Trump and his 18 cronies who allegedly worked to illegally overturn the 2020 presidential election. Willis is basically responsible for history’s first mug shot of a former U.S. president.
These days, however, Willis is under scrutiny that threatens to unseat all of her work: Earlier this month, Michael Roman, one of the indicted, filed a motion to dismiss the case based on an alleged romantic relationship between Willis and Nathan Wade, the lead counsel for the case.
Roman is alleging that, as Wade’s romantic partner, she benefited directly from the $600,000 salary her office paid Wade via vacations and trips. Neither Willis nor Wade have publicly addressed their relationship, but she has until Feb. 2 to respond to the allegations in court.
Making the whole thing more worthy of a lousy reality television arc, Willis and Wade’s alleged relationship falls in the middle of a testy divorce case between Wade and his wife Joycelyn, who subpoenaed Willis to testify. A judge unsealed the divorce records Monday, revealing no information about their alleged relationship, but Wade himself is expected to testify. The divorce case could result in embarrassing information about their alleged relationship being made public.
Georgia State University professor Clark Cunningham wrote an opinion for the New York Times laying out why Willis should temporarily step down from her position as a matter of public service and pass the case on to someone else. His reasoning has nothing to do with her actual job capabilities, but instead the legal morass her alleged relationship with Wade might cause.
Without question, Willis messed up: She should’ve never allowed anything that could be perceived as a conflict of interest to muddy the waters. She also should’ve known that keeping a professional house clean is of paramount importance for Black professionals — especially Black women.
However, Willis and Wade’s relationship isn’t illegal, nor does it appear to be collusive – you can’t exactly hide a trip with your boo to Miami. Willis wanted someone she trusted on the case, and that’s presumably what she got with Wade, her former mentor. Unsurprisingly, the Trumpers on the right are bringing into question the qualifications of Wade, a Black man and a former municipal court judge who runs his own private law firm.
Attacking Willis for malfeasance is interesting considering the list of politicians who have been accused of actual sexual misconduct and still have their jobs. I’ll list the differences between them and Willis on the white board in the front of class.
Really, just contrast Willis to her primary target: Trump is currently nursing 91 felony counts and four prosecutions, and he’s still a front runner to goose-step back into the White House next year. And that’s just the stuff that should land Trump in prison – it doesn’t acknowledge all the atrocious shit that’s come out of his mouth in the last decade. It should infuriate everyone to know that Barack Obama would’ve never become president if he had so much as an unpaid parking ticket.
That’s the tragic reality of it all: Willis and her prominent Black ilk simply aren’t allowed to make mistakes, because the loud folks will leverage thinly veiled racism to call for their jobs.
Following a 28-year career, Willis has proven herself perfectly capable of seeing the Trump case to its conclusion. She’s likely more familiar than anyone else with the case she built, and it would be a shame to see someone else step in her place.
If she’s ultimately forced to leave the case and her position, we’ll know the real reason why.