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Trump Prosecutor in Georgia Seeks to Avoid Testifying in Colleague’s Divorce Case

Fani T. Willis, the district attorney prosecuting the Georgia election interference case against former President Donald J. Trump, is trying to quash a subpoena seeking her testimony in the divorce proceedings of a special prosecutor she hired to manage the case.

A court filing last week accused Ms. Willis of having a romantic relationship with the prosecutor, Nathan J. Wade.

The motion containing the accusation was filed by Michael Roman, one of Mr. Trump’s 14 co-defendants in the criminal case. The motion argues that the relationship, which it provided no proof of, amounted to a conflict of interest; it seeks to have Mr. Wade, Ms. Willis and her office dismissed from the case.

Mr. Roman’s lawyer has said that sealed court records in the pending divorce case between Mr. Wade’ and his wife, Joycelyn, contain documentation of his relationship with Ms. Willis. Ms. Wade’s lawyer subpoenaed Ms. Willis last week, requiring her to be deposed on Jan. 23.

On Thursday, Ms. Willis responded with a filing stating that she “lacks personal knowledge of any matter that is relevant” to the divorce. She did not directly acknowledge the allegation, but said there was no reason for her to testify because both Mr. Wade and his wife had declared their marriage to be “irretrievably broken.”

“It is well-established that when both parties in a divorce proceeding assert that a marriage is irretrievably broken, which is a legal conclusion signifying that there is no hope for reconciliation, there is no genuine issue of fact that remains to be decided concerning the divorce,” Cinque Axam, a lawyer for Ms. Willis, wrote in the filing.

The filing also stated that Ms. Wade had “conspired” with “interested parties” in the Trump case “to annoy, embarrass and oppress” Ms. Willis. It noted that Ms. Willis had been subpoenaed around the same time that Mr. Roman’s lawyer, Ashleigh Merchant, filed motions seeking to unseal the divorce records and, in the Trump case, to remove the two prosecutors.

The filing also said that Ms. Wade had acknowledged having an affair with a longtime friend of Mr. Wade’s, and that the couple had agreed their marriage was “irretrievably broken” as early as 2017, before Mr. Wade and Ms. Willis had met.

Andrea Dyer Hastings, a lawyer for Ms. Wade, said she was preparing a response that she would file in court.

Ms. Merchant said in a text message, “Ms. Willis alleges that her deposition is being sought in an attempt to harass and damage her professional reputation. Why would her truthful testimony risk damaging her reputation?”

On Thursday, the judge presiding over the Trump case scheduled a hearing for Feb. 15 on Mr. Roman’s motion seeking to remove Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade from the case — and to dismiss the charges against him. The judge, Scott McAfee of Fulton County Superior Court, ordered Ms. Willis to file a written response to the motion by Feb. 2 and to appear at the hearing, which will be televised just as all the proceedings in the case have been.

A hearing on the unsealing of the divorce files is set for Jan. 31 in Cobb County, Ga., outside Atlanta.

Mr. Roman’s motion in the Trump case states that Mr. Wade, who has been paid more than $650,000 by the district attorney’s office, used some of that money for trips that he and Ms. Willis took together. The motion also questions whether Mr. Wade is qualified to play a central role in the high-profile prosecution.

The events of the past 10 days have added an unexpected dimension to a case in which matters of race and gender have also been bubbling to the fore.

In a testy recent email exchange between defense lawyers and prosecutors, Ms. Willis wrote that “some people will never be able to respect African Americans.” The email exchange, portions of which were obtained by The New York Times, unfolded in the days before and after the filing alleging the romantic relationship.

In a group email thread that includes prosecutors and defense lawyers in the case, the lead lawyer for Mr. Trump in Georgia, Steven H. Sadow, expressed annoyance with prosecutors for ignoring a request he had made. On Jan. 5, he wrote to prosecutors: “For the life of me, I cannot understand why you refuse to respond to the series of emails below.”

Five days later, Daysha Young, an executive district attorney who, like Ms. Willis, is Black, wrote that she and Ms. Willis “are both aware, especially as an African American woman some find it difficult to treat us respectfully.”

She added, “Over the last month the emails of some of you have been disrespectful and condescending lacking both professionalism and decorum.” Ms. Young also said that she did not respond to some emails because they were disrespectful.

Mr. Sadow, who is white, responded with an email in which he said that it was “offensive, uncalled for and untrue” to suggest that racism was at play. He also said that Ms. Young’s lack of response to some emails from the defense “suggests a degree of haughtiness.”

Then Ms. Willis weighed in.

“In the legal community (and the world at large) some people will never be able to respect African Americans and/or women as their equal and counterpart,” she wrote in a note addressed to Mr. Sadow but sent to all of the defense lawyers, most of whom are white men. “That is a burden you do not experience. Further, some are so used to doing it they are not even aware they are doing it while others are intentional in their continued disrespect.”

Ms. Willis also made a case for her own fortitude. “Now you know, I cannot be bullied,” she wrote. She added: “As you are aware, I have now experienced some of the most powerful people in the country call me everything, but a child of God. But, yet here I and my team stand still pursuing justice.”

Mr. Sadow declined to comment when asked about the exchange on Thursday, as did Ms. Willis’s office.

In a speech on Sunday at a historically Black church in Atlanta, Ms. Willis suggested racism was playing a role in the allegations against her and Mr. Wade, who is also Black.

Ms. Willis has not addressed the allegation that she and Mr. Wade were romantic partners. She noted the frequent racist threats she has been subject to since starting her investigation of Mr. Trump in 2021.

Mr. Trump has sought to cast the Georgia case, and other criminal cases against him, as unfair “witch hunts” that are motivated in part by his being a white man. Without basis, he has called Ms. Willis “racist,” and has said the same of other Black prosecutors trying cases against him.

During a speech in August, Mr. Trump made an unsubstantiated claim that Ms. Willis was “having an affair” with a “gang member.” She said it was false.

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