COURTS & LEGAL

Appeals court halts Trump’s Georgia case during appeal of order allowing Willis to stay on case

Jun 5, 2024, 4:26 PM

FILE - Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks during a news conference, Aug. 14, 2023, ...

FILE - Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks during a news conference, Aug. 14, 2023, in Atlanta. Voters in Georgia, Kentucky, Oregon, and Idaho will hold state primaries to choose nominees for U.S. House and other contests. Willis, who is leading the prosecution of Trump in a 2020 election interference case, faces challenger Christian Wise Smith in the Democratic primary on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (John Bazemore, AP phoo, File)

(John Bazemore, AP phoo, File)

ATLANTA (AP) — An appeals court has halted the Georgia election interference case against former President Donald Trump and others while it reviews the lower court judge’s ruling allowing Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to remain on the case.

The Georgia Court of Appeals’ order on Wednesday prevents Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee from moving forward with pretrial motions as he had planned while the appeal is pending. While it was already unlikely that the case would go to trial before the November general election, when Trump is expected to be the Republican nominee for president, this makes that even more certain.

The appeals court on Monday docketed the appeals filed by Trump and eight others and said that “if oral argument is requested and granted” it is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 4. The court will then have until mid-March to rule, and the losing side will be able to appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court.

No comment on ruling

A spokesperson for Willis declined to comment on the appeals court ruling.

A Fulton County grand jury in August indicted Trump and 18 others, accusing them of participating in a sprawling scheme to illegally try to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. Four defendants have pleaded guilty after reaching deals with prosecutors, but Trump and the others have pleaded not guilty. It is one of four criminal cases against Trump.

Trump and eight other defendants had tried to get Willis and her office removed from the case, arguing that a romantic relationship she had with special prosecutor Nathan Wade created a conflict of interest. McAfee in March found that no conflict of interest existed that should force Willis off the case, but he granted a request from Trump and the other defendants to seek an appeal of his ruling from the state Court of Appeals.

McAfee wrote that “an odor of mendacity remains.” He said “reasonable questions” over whether Willis and Wade had testified truthfully about the timing of their relationship “further underpin the finding of an appearance of impropriety and the need to make proportional efforts to cure it.” He said Willis could remain on the case only if Wade left, and the special prosecutor submitted his resignation hours later.

The allegations that Willis had improperly benefited from her romance with Wade resulted in a tumultuous couple of months in the case as intimate details of Willis and Wade’s personal lives were aired in court in mid-February.

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Appeals court halts Trump’s Georgia case during appeal of order allowing Willis to stay on case