Napa Valley winery employee now claims to recall DA Willis paying cash last year for wine-tasting tour

 February 21, 2024

During last week's evidentiary hearing on allegations that Georgia's Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis improperly benefited financially from her hiring of Special Prosecutor Nathan Wade, with whom she was involved in an undisclosed romantic relationship, Willis testified that she always reimbursed Wade with cash for his recorded expenditures on her behalf.

That dubious claim has now reportedly been corroborated by a winery employee in Napa Valley, California, who claims to recall Willis paying in cash for a wine-tasting excursion alongside Wade nearly a year ago, according to Newsweek.

Yet, while some in the media will rush to assert that this purported corroboration bolsters the credibility of Willis' insistent assertion that she pays for everything with cash, it must be noted that the winery employee's unverifiable claim of recalling a specific cash transaction from a year earlier can't be independently double-checked.

Willis' cash payment claims allegedly corroborated

CNN reported on Tuesday that Stan Brody, an estate ambassador for Acumen Wines in California's Napa Valley, came forward to recall that DA Willis paid cash for her and a guest, who he now realizes was Wade, following a two-hour wine-tasting tour of the winery in "early 2023."

He stated that Willis produced $400 in cash to pay a roughly $350 tab -- $150 each for two bottles of wine and $50 for the tasting tour -- and insisted that the transaction was memorable because cash sales are so infrequent in Napa Valley, as most guests use credit or debit cards.

Brody further told the outlet that his recollection of that alleged event was refreshed when he watched Willis and Wade testify during the evidentiary hearing last week and was adamant that he hadn't spoken or coordinated with either the DA's office or the defense attorneys who raised the allegations of impropriety against the prosecutors.

"I rang up the thing and I showed her. I was expecting a credit card quite frankly," Brody told CNN of the claimed cash transaction from nearly a year earlier. "And she says I’ll pay cash. And so that was that. So then I just put the cash in, made change for her, and she was very generous to me."

"These are really nice people," he added of Willis and Wade. "I treat people at the winery every time … as if you’re sitting in my living room. And they were the kind of people that if I was having a party at my home that I would have invited. That’s what I came away with."

Claims of cash payments and reimbursements are not easily verified

To be sure, this account from the winery ambassador would seem to support DA Willis' repeated claim that she pays cash for everything, particularly while on vacations, and the credulous media appears to have accepted the claims at face value and without any skepticism.

That said, there is no way to prove that Brody's recollection is accurate and not motivated by partisan support for Willis' ongoing criminal prosecution of former President Donald Trump and more than a dozen of his Republican allies and associates over an alleged racketeering conspiracy to interfere with and overturn Georgia's 2020 election results.

Indeed, the fact that Willis' assertion under oath that she routinely reimbursed Wade in cash for his expenditures on her behalf for multiple vacations -- including lodging and transportation costs for several cruise ship vacations in the Caribbean -- is not easily verifiable was highlighted by the defense attorney who first raised the allegations of impropriety last month, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Ashleigh Merchant, the lawyer for defendant Michael Roman, told the outlet that she looks forward to further scrutinizing the issue in court, and said, "The district attorney and special prosecutor have a lot to lose if they are disqualified, so it is not surprising that they have fashioned a self-serving defense that cannot be corroborated with any documents or witnesses."

Do apparent conflicts of interest merit disqualification from the case?

The point of last week's evidentiary hearing was for presiding Judge Scott McAfee to determine whether DA Willis improperly benefited financially from her hiring of Wade to help prosecute former President Trump and others, given the appearance of conflicts of interest created by Wade spending the taxpayer funds he received in furtherance of his undisclosed romantic relationship with Willis.

The judge will reportedly decide within the coming weeks if the said appearance of conflicts of interest merit the disqualification of both Willis and Wade, along with the entire Fulton County DA's office, from the case, if not even the unlikely prospect of the dropping of all criminal charges altogether.

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