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If one were to write a storyline where an ambitious county district attorney were to hire a special counsel, with no significant criminal experience in a criminal RICO case against 19 co-defendants, including a U.S. President, when the two prosecutors not only had a personal relationship, but a romantic relationship, and rules of appointing the special counsel were violated, and overpaying the special counsel was in question, and the violations were so severe that the two prosecutors and their offices could be dismissed, and possibly indicted, and possibly having the entire case dismissed, one would think John Grisham had just pitched a storyline to his publisher.
But, that is what a 127-page motion reads like in the State of Georgia v. Michael A. Roman case. Roman and 18 other co-defendants were charged for election fraud violations in the matter.
Roman led election day operations for the 2020 Trump campaign.
In an extraordinary and explosive pleading filed on Monday, defense counsel Ashleigh Merchant, on behalf of her client, Michael A. Roman, proffered to the court facts that under normal judicial times, a judge could and would not ignore.
Merchant’s alleged facts are so explosive that it could potentially put this entire case at risk. She is asking the court to dismiss the indictment in its entirety as to Mr. Roman, disqualify Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, the Special Counsel Nathan Wade, whom Willis appointed, and their respective offices and firms from any further involvement in the prosecution of this matter.
Here are the facts as presented by Merchant in the pleading:
- On November 2, 2021, a day after his first contract with Willis commenced. Wade filed for divorce in Cobb County Superior Court. Wade then had the divorce proceedings sealed by consent order on February 10, 2022. Wade's contracts are included in the exhibits.
- Willis and Wade “have been engaged in an improper, clandestine personal relationship during the pendency of this case, which has resulted in the special prosecutor, and, in turn, the district attorney, profiting significantly from this prosecution at the expense of the taxpayers,” writes Merchant.
- Defense Attorney Merchant spoke directly with a Fulton County Commissioner who verified that Willis never received approval for Wade to be appointed or to be paid as special counsel. Wade’s appointment requires a vote by the Fulton County Board of Commissioners. Merchant’s search of board meeting minutes found no indication Wade’s appointment was ever discussed, much less voted upon.
- “Under Georgia law, the district attorney was required to obtain Fulton County’s approval prior to appointing the special prosecutor to work on the case. The reason for this requirement is simple; it ensures that the district attorney cannot act unilaterally with regard to public monies and is subject to the control and supervision of the governing body, i.e., Fulton County so that public has confidence in how the money is used,” Merchant wrote.
- Merchant has informed the court that “the special purpose grand jury did not recommend an indictment or any charges against Mr. Roman. The district attorney and special prosecutor made that charging decision on their own.”
- According to the pleading, Wade has raked in at least $653,000 and upwards of $1 million so far. That boatload of taxpayer money benefits Willis because they have traveled together to Florida, the Caribbean and Napa Valley, California,and Merchant also notes that Wade has also bought tickets for the couple to travel on Norwegian and Royal Caribbean cruise ships.
- In addition to Wade's $250 hourly rate, Wade has also billed Fulton County for thousands of dollars in air travel and hotel stays, according to invoices attached as exhibits to the pleading. They were characterized as interview and research trips.
- The motion before the court is asking for dismissal of the case against Roman based upon “the grounds that the entire prosecution is invalid and unconstitutional because the Fulton County district attorney never had legal authority to appoint the special prosecutor, who assisted in obtaining both grand jury indictments," argues Merchant.
- If proven true, “the district attorney and the special prosecutor have violated laws regulating the use of public monies, suffer from irreparable conflicts of interest, and have violated their oaths of office under the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct and should be disqualified from prosecuting this matter,” further argues Merchant.
- Merchant cleverly answers her own questions in her pleading, How do we know this? and Why is this important?
The full motion can be read or downloaded below:
Merchant ends her argument before the court with the obvious.
“The actions of the district attorney and the special prosecutor are indefensible under the law and our Rules of Professional Conduct and have ultimately created a fatal and irreparable defect in the indictment against Mr. Roman and a conflict of interest that has tainted the entire prosecution,” Merchant concludes.
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