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Trump prosecutor Fani Willis’s father testifies to ‘nightmarish threats’ facing his daughter

A two-day hearing interrogates the DA’s relationship with another lawyer leading the election interference case

Alex Woodward
Friday 16 February 2024 19:04 GMT
Fani Willis's Father Testifies About Death Threats Against His Daughter

Attorneys for Donald Trump and his allies who are criminally charged in a sprawling election interference case in Georgia have been scrutinising a relationship between the prosecutor leading the case and one of her lead attorneys.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is the subject of a two-day court hearing – following allegations supported by Mr Trump and co-defendants – to interrogate her relationship with another attorney and whether they financially benefited from the case.

Defence attorneys have repeatedly questioned when she moved out of her home in South Fulton and into a condominium, suggesting that she was using the unit to conceal an alleged affair.

But testimony from Ms Willis’s father John Clifford Floyd III, a longtime civil rights activist who lived with Ms Willis, detailed the threats that the family faced shortly after she took office in early 2021, which prompted her move.

“There were people outside her house, cursing and yelling and calling her the b-word and the n-word” in February of that year, Mr Floyd testified on Friday.

“I hadn’t seen anything exactly like it before,” he said.

Fani Willis’s father John Clifford Floyd III testifies on 16 February (Getty Images)

Ms Willis left the home in the weeks that followed. She testified on Thursday that she moved into a condominium owned by a friend after she was bombarded by violent threats after her election to the district attorney’s office.

“There’d been so many death threats and they said they were gonna blow up the house, they were gonna kill me, they were gonna kill my grandchildren,” Mr Floyd said on Friday. “I was concerned for her safety.”

Defence attorneys accuse Ms Willis of hiring lead prosecutor Nathan Wade while they were in a romantic relationship, and using money earned through work on that case to vacation together.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee has said that Ms Willis and her team could be disqualified if the allegations are substantiated, which would then trigger a re-appointment process would continue to delay a major criminal case against the former president

Ms Willis and Mr Wade began dating in 2022, after he was hired, and the relationship ended last summer, before the defendants were indicted.

She told the court she moved into the condominium in 2021. Mr Floyd said he continued to live in his daughter’s South Fulton home until the end of 2022 as the family continued to face “nightmare threats”.

“Things got so bad and threats got so many … that the house became basically uninhabitable,” he said.

Defence attorneys also questioned him about Ms Willis storing cash that was allegedly used to conceal payments to Mr Wade, prompting Mr Floyd – who is Black – to deliver a history lesson about racist discrimination and to defend a habit that he taught his daughter.

“I’m not trying to be racist but it’s a Black thing,” he said. “Most Black folks they hide cash or keep cash … You always keep some cash.”

He explained that a restaurant rejected his credit cards and traveller’s cheques while he was a fellow at Harvard University, “just because of the colour of my skin.”

“I told my daughter, ‘You keep six months of cash, always,” he said. “I gave my daughter her first cash box and told her always keep some cash.”

When he first moved into his daughter’s home, Ms Willis’s then-boyfriend was also frequently there and stored disc jockey equipment at the property, Mr Floyd said. He testified that he didn’t find out about her relationship with Mr Wade until recently.

Coming up short with any getting any contradictory testimony, defence attorney Ashleigh Merchant asked to strike his entire testimony, after he said he couldn’t avoid reading about the hearing, as it’s plastered across news websites and broadcast endlessly on TV and radio.

Fulton County special prosecutor Anna Cross, left, who represents Fani Willis, appears alongside defence attorney Ashleigh Merchant, right, during a hearing on 16 February (AP)

Their testimony builds on what has become a high-stakes line of inquiry – what Ms Willis and others have cast as an effort to undermine her prosecution and delay and distract from Mr Trump’s proceedings – that could threaten her removal from the case altogether.

If Juge McAfee determines that she can be disqualified, her team would be removed and new prosecutors would be appointed, a process that could take months and further delay a sprawling trial that has been tentatively scheduled to begin in August.

Lines of questioning from attorneys for Mr Trump and his co-defendants have veered into deeply personal questions, including her sex life and how she handles cash, with Ms Willis eager to clarify allegations against her, the timeline of her relationship, and how she handled payments for trips and meals between them.

There is nothing illegal or improper about the relationship itself; Ms Willis and Mr Wade had already admitted to their relationship, but in court documents they firmly rejected the “meritless” and “salacious” allegations as “bad-faith” attempts to see her kicked off a case that would put Mr Trump on a state trial for unlawfully rejecting an election he lost.

“We’ve three witnesses indicating Wade and Willis were not in a relationship in 2019, 2020, or early 2021 – and later 2021 before Wade was hired. There is one witness who testified to the contrary, but with no specifics. The weight of evidence so far goes to the DA on that point,” according to Georgia State University law professor Anthony Michael Kreis.

“Barring some revelatory new facts, it is hard to establish that there was a relationship to the extent that Willis gave a contract unethically to someone she was already in a relationship with or with the intent to personally profit from gifts offered by Mr Wade,” he added.

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