This report was republished with permission from The Daily Caller News Foundation, an independent and nonpartisan newswire service.
By Katelynn Richardson on January 15, 2024
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis paid her alleged romantic partner, Nathan Wade, to work at a higher hourly rate on the case against former President Donald Trump than she contracted one of the state’s leading racketeering experts, according to documents obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.
John Floyd, who wrote a book on federal and state Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statutes and is considered Georgia’s top expert, entered into a contract with the Fulton County District Attorney’s office on March 10, 2021 at an hourly rate of $150 per hour, according to a contract obtained by the DCNF. Nathan Wade, who Willis appointed special prosecutor, was retained at a rate of $250 per hour, according to the contract contained in court documents — though Willis claimed Sunday all her special counsels were paid the same rate.
A Trump co-defendant claimed in a motion seeking to dismiss the case last week that Willis benefited from awarding Wade, allegedly her romantic partner, a “lucrative” contract because he used payments he received for his position to take her on cruises and vacations. Wade filed for divorce from his wife on Nov. 2, 2021, the day after his contract to work under Willis began.
Willis responded to the allegations for the first time Sunday in remarks made at Big Bethel AME Church, claiming she paid all three special counsels on the Trump case the same hourly rate, and that one special counsel, an indirect reference to Wade, was only being attacked because of his race.
“I’m a little confused. I appointed three special counsels, as is my right to do, paid them all the same hourly rate. They only attack one,” Willis said. “I hired one white woman, a good personal friend and great lawyer, a superstar, I tell you. I hired one white man, brilliant, my friend and a great lawyer. And I hired one black man, another superstar, a great friend and a great lawyer … First thing they say: ‘oh, she [is going to] play the race card now.”
“You cannot expect black women to be perfect and save the world,” Willis said.
The other special counsel, Anna Cross, entered into a contract with Fulton County at a $250 hourly rate on July 15, 2022, according to a document obtained by the DCNF. In her 20 years of experience as a prosecutor, she represented Georgia in multiple high-profile homicide cases and has argued over 60 times at the Georgia Supreme Court, according to her firm’s website.
It’s possible Floyd was later paid at a higher rate, as the contract the DCNF obtained only extends through April 2022.
Floyd previously worked with Willis to use Georgia’s RICO act to prosecute close to three dozen Atlanta public educators for a cheating scandal about inflating students’ standardized testing scores, which eleven teachers were convicted in by a jury in April 2015, according to the Associated Press.
Wade’s prior experience includes working in private practice as a trial attorney on contract disputes and family law, and as a municipal judge dealing with traffic tickets, according to The Washington Post. Ashleigh Merchant, Roman’s attorney, wrote in the motion she filed last week that Wade has never prosecuted a felony RICO case and that she was “unable to find any history of, Wade ever having prosecuted a single felony trial.”
“If the allegations about his lack of felony trial experience are true, $250 per hour is unreasonably high,” Atlanta-based criminal defense attorney and legal analyst Philip Holloway told the DCNF. “It could be argued that any amount is too high to pay someone with no felony trial experience to come in as lead counsel in the biggest, most complex criminal case in the history of Georgia.”
Wade has been paid nearly $654,000 in legal fees since January 2022, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The scandal around DA Fani Willis has me reflecting on this incredible quote from a fawning New York Times piece about her last Feb that I wish I was making up: pic.twitter.com/24xiwq2lkj
— Drew Holden (@DrewHolden360) January 15, 2024
Fulton County paid Wade’s law firm $34,000 in March 2023, while it paid Floyd’s firm, Bondurant Mixson & Elmore, $30,200 in the same month, according to a monthly public expenditure report. Floyd’s firm is not listed on Fulton County’s February 2023 expenditure reports, which shows Wade’s firm receiving $68,500. Neither firm appears on January’s public expenditure report.
Wade made $36,000 in April 2023 and $35,000 in May 2023, according to expenditure reports.
Floyd’s firm was paid $3,000 in June 2023. Wade’s firm does not appear on the report. Reports from other months could not be publicly accessed.
“Obviously the appropriate fee paid to special counsel would depend on the subject matter, the level of complexity, the level of expertise required, the level of experience of the attorney, and to some extent, the funds available to pay said attorney,” Keith Adams, an Atlanta-based criminal defense attorney who represented Young Thug in the RICO case brought against him by Willis, told the DCNF.
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There may be “various budgets” a special counsel is paid from, he said, noting most Fulton County contract attorneys are paid through the Superior Court budget. A Superior Court advertisement for contract attorneys in the county, included on page 82 of the motion filed last week by Trump co-defendant Michael Roman, places the highest hourly pay rate for attorneys with at least five years of experience and two prior trials featuring similar offenses at $140.
“It may be that the special counsel is being paid from a completely separate budget that is not subject to the same budgetary limitations, and is left to the discretion of the District Attorney,” Adams said.
Holloway said Wade’s rate is why “nepotism is frowned upon when decisions are made on awarding no-bid contracts.”
“This kind of arrangement is unheard of in Georgia,” he told the DCNF. “So there is no basis for comparison. Court appointed criminal defense lawyers around here typically make less than $100 per hour on felony cases.”
The investigation into former President Donald Trump began in February 2021, when Willis wrote a letter informing state officials she had opened an investigation into “potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local government bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election’s administration,” according to the Associated Press.
The District Attorneys’ office and Wade did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Fulton County referred the DCNF to the District Attorney’s office.