DA Willis files 'last-ditch effort' motion to dismiss Trump's appeal of order allowing her to remain on case

 June 14, 2024

Georgia's Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis likely hoped that she could simply ignore the efforts of former President Donald Trump and more than a dozen co-defendants to disqualify her from the 2020 election interference case so that she could get back to preparing her prosecution for trial.

Willis appears to have given up on that hope now that the Georgia Court of Appeals has stayed all proceedings in the case, which prompted her to file a motion urging the appellate court to dismiss the appeal of Trump and others, local media outlet WRDW reported.

Trump and his co-defendants asked the appellate court, and the court agreed in May, to review a March order from trial court Judge Scott McAfee that allowed Willis to remain on the case despite an appearance of conflicts of interest and other potential issues.

Willis argues "lack of sufficient evidence" to support disqualification

On Wednesday, DA Willis' office filed a 17-page motion to dismiss with the Georgia Court of Appeals which asked for "the appeal to be dismissed as
improvidently granted due to the lack of sufficient evidence, based upon the explicit factual findings of the trial court, to support reversal of the order at issue."

"As both this Court and the Supreme Court have repeatedly held, Georgia appellate courts will not disturb a trial court’s factual findings on disputed issues outside of certain, very rare, circumstances," the motion stated. "When a trial court makes determinations concerning matters of credibility or evidentiary weight, reviewing courts will not disturb those determinations unless they are flatly incorrect."

Appellate courts will not -- indeed, may not -- substitute their own appraisal of the factual record for the trial court’s," the filing added. "This principle has been reiterated time and again."

Willis claims "no basis for reversal" of McAfee's order

The motion from DA Willis went on to argue at length that the defendants in the Trump election interference case had been granted ample opportunity to submit evidence in support of allegations of a conflict of interest involving the admitted romantic relationship between Willis and former Special Assistant District Attorney Nathan Wade, who resigned from the case following Judge McAfee's ruling in March, but failed to do so.

"At this stage, Appellants’ remaining evidence therefore relates to possible concerns about future appearances of impropriety that can no longer even come to pass, not to a disqualifying, actual conflict of interest," the filing asserted. "Bound by these factual findings, there can be no basis for reversal of the trial court’s order declining to either disqualify the District Attorney or dismiss the indictment."

The motion concluded by noting that the trial court found that "Appellants’ additional proposed grounds for either disqualification or dismissal of the indictment were either unfounded in the law, reiterations of previous (rejected) motions which were similarly unfounded in the law, irrelevant and unrelated to the actual case at hand, or blatant misapplications of caselaw. With no basis for reversal, the State respectfully requests that the appeal be dismissed as improvidently granted."

All proceedings stayed pending appellate review

The motion to dismiss from DA Willis came just a few days after former President Trump and other co-defendants filed an eight-page request for the appellate court to hear oral arguments in a tentatively scheduled October hearing on the appeal of Judge McAfee's decision.

It also came a little more than a week after the Georgia Court of Appeals imposed a stay on the case that paused all pre-trial proceedings and indefinitely delayed an eventual trial until after it had completed its review of McAfee's order that allowed Willis to remain on the case if Wade resigned, according to The Hill.

At that time, Trump's lead attorney Steve Sadow said the appellate court "has properly stayed all proceedings against President Trump in the trial court pending its decision on our interlocutory appeal which argues the case should be dismissed and Fulton County DA Willis should be disqualified for her misconduct."

A "last-ditch effort" by the prosecutor to avoid disqualification

Now, in response to DA Willis' motion to dismiss, Fox News reported that Trump's attorney Sadow said, "The State’s motion to dismiss the interlocutory appeal, which has already been permitted by the Court of Appeals, appears to be a last-ditch effort to stop any appellate review of DA Willis’ misconduct."

"The State’s motion deliberately failed to mention that Judge McAfee’s ruling stated an 'odor of mendacity remains' from the hearing testimony by the DA and the State’s witnesses. The judge also said there were 'reasonable questions' as to whether Willis and former prosecutor Wade testified untruthfully," the defense lawyer added. "The State has tried this gambit before with no success."

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