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Home Georgia The Georgia Court of Appeals has agreed to hear Trump's challenge to Fulton County DA Fani Willis, delaying the RICO trial until 2025

The Georgia Court of Appeals has agreed to hear Trump's challenge to Fulton County DA Fani Willis, delaying the RICO trial until 2025

“There will be no Georgia trial before 2025. Period. Full stop,” Georgia State University College of Law Professor Anthony Michael Kreis said.

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Donald Trump does a hand motion in the main image; Fani Willis looks confused inset on the right

Main image: Former President Donald Trump voting in the Florida primary election in Palm Beach, Fla., Tuesday, March 19, 2024. Inset right: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis during a hearing on the Georgia election interference case, Friday, March, 1, 2024, in Atlanta.

The Georgia Court of Appeals decided to review the lower court's decision about Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and the racketeering (RICO) and election subversion case. against Former President Donald Trump is involved in this case..

This decision is not good for Willis, who fought against the appellate court's involvement. This may cause more delays in the trial process and could lead to the removal of the district attorney and her office from the case.

In the short, one-page order., the second-highest court in Georgia approved the request for interlocutory appeal filed on March 29. The appeals court had 45 days, until May 13, to decide on the defense appeal from the trial court order that reluctantly and narrowly allowed Willis to stay on the case.

The defense has been trying to get Willis and her office taken off the case since early January — first due to allegations of a romantic relationship with lead prosecutor Nathan Wade, which created a conflict of interest because of financial reasons.

The motion that exposed the once-secret, then-admitted, affair was filed by attorney Ashleigh Merchant on behalf of Michael Roman, a senior staff member for Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign. Prosecutors claim he played a relevant, criminal, role in the fake or “contingent” electors scheme. Once those allegations were brought to light, they gradually messed up the timeline Willis had for quick justice.

On March 15, Fulton Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee partially granted the defense's motion to disqualify but let the prosecution choose which prosecutor had to leave. The court’s order was based on a finding that the one-time romance between Willis and Wade resulted in “a significant appearance of impropriety that infects the current structure of the prosecution team.” Wade resigned hours later.

The main reason the defense wanted Willis removed was that the district attorney hired her then-boyfriend for the job, overpaid him, and allegedly received gifts like vacations and travel using public funds.

Ultimately, McAfee said the defense did not prove that Willis gained financially from hiring Wade or that her “financial gain” motivated her to prosecute the case.

On March 20, McAfee allowed the defendants to appeal his decision letting Willis stay while the case is still in the pretrial phase. He cautioned the defense that the pretrial process would still happen in the meantime.

Now that the appeals court has decided to take up the case against Willis, the defendants will be allowed to — and almost certainly will — file for a stay pending the results of the overall appeal.

The defense has 10 days from May 8 to file a formal notice of appeal.

The earlier appeal application was based on “forensic misconduct” allegations against Willis over her Martin Luther King Jr. Day speech at Big Bethel A.M.E. Church in Atlanta — a speech that, the defense argued, was a direct public response to the nepotism allegations.

“While the trial court factually found DA Willis’ out-of-court statements were improper and Defendants proved an apparent conflict of interest, the trial court erred as a matter of law by not requiring dismissal and DA Willis’ disqualification,” the appeal reads. “This legal error requires the Court’s immediate review.”

The defense has accused the district attorney of using the nationally-televised speech to make “inflammatory extrajudicial racial comments” about the defendants and of improperly stoking “racial animus” to influence would-be jurors in retaliation for, and in order to deflect from, the allegations raised in the motion to disqualify.

McAfee was harsh in his previous assessment of this speech.

“The effect of this speech was to cast racial aspersions at an indicted defendant’s decision to file this pretrial motion,” the judge wrote.

The defense argued the trial court’s decision not to toss Willis and her office from the case was “legal error” that needs immediate review.

The appeals court agreed that the matter necessitated review.

Notably, however, the appellate court will not be restricted by the primary forensic focus of the defense’s appeal. Rather, the judges chosen to consider the allegations against Willis will have extremely broad latitude to review “all judgments, rulings, or orders rendered in the case” under long-standing statutory authority in Georgia. In other words, the parties will more or less be able to raise all of the prior issues in the case — even an issue previously considered moot.

The decision to take up the allegations against Willis lodged by Trump and his co-defendants in the sprawling case surprised many legal experts and practitioners in Georgia who prognosticated the chances of such an intervention ranged from thin to slightly not thin.

Georgia State University College of Law Professor Anthony Michael Kreis wagered the odds were 4-1 against appellate intervention. In a series of tweets on X (formerly Twitter), he provided the upshot of the current hindsight consensus among Peach State lawyers.

“Fani Willis messed up badly,” Kreis said. “There will be no Georgia trial before 2025. Period. Full stop.”

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