Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has paid massive sums to private sector attorneys for their services, and a portion of those relate to investigating and prosecuting former President Donald Trump, according to county records.
Nathan Wade, Willis’s lead prosecutor in the case, has raked in more than half a million dollars from the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office from January 2022 to August 2023, according to a payment history.
Christopher Campbell, Wade’s colleague at Wade & Campbell Firm, has been paid $116,670 from April 2021 to August 2023, the same records show.
Terrence Bradley, a former colleague of Wade’s, was paid $74,480 from May 2021 to June 2022, according to the records.
Wade, a defense attorney who can bill by the hour, was hand-picked by Willis roughly two years ago to serve as special prosecutor in the Trump case. Wade is a former Cobb County judge who ran for Cobb County Superior Court and was defeated in 2012, 2014, and 2016. Willis chose Wade over career prosecutors who work on salaries, and while the legalities of that have not been questioned at this stage, some, like Phil Holloway, an Atlanta-based attorney for more than two decades, have found the use of Wade to be “unorthodox.
“It’s certainly unorthodox and appears to be a cash cow for any lawyer paid by the hour,” Holloway said. “I’ve been practicing criminal law in Georgia for 24 years, and I’ve never seen such an arrangement.”
Willis, who began investigating Trump in February 2021, indicted the former president and 18 co-defendants last month on racketeering charges, alleging they had conspired to illegally overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia.
One of the co-defendants, former Georgia GOP Chairman David Shafer, highlighted in a court filing on Thursday the hefty payments to private prosecutors, asking for Judge Scott McAfee to schedule a hearing “regarding improper contact by special prosecutor’s law firm.”
Shafer included in the filing an advertisement he had received from Wade’s firm soliciting clients who needed help with criminal defense needs, including “impersonating a public officer,” a charge leveled against Shafer.
The advertisement, while sent in the form of a standard mailer, presented an awkward scenario where a private attorney was offering defense services to a person he was prosecuting.
Shafer’s attorney in the court filing said it also violated an “anti-contact” rule, noting that “the harassing, or mocking and intimidating nature of the firm’s communication with Mr. Shafer causes grave injury to the appearance of fairness and propriety of this proceeding.”
Aside from the issue of the advertisement, Holloway observed that Wade could skirt the typical obligations of public servants while working as outsourced counsel.
“For starters, it avoids the statutory requirements for the appointment of assistant district attorneys, who are paid a fixed salary, and also avoids the administration of an oath of office,” Holloway said. “The oath of office is intended to protect the public from malfeasance by public officials and carries a criminal penalty if violated.”
The use of Wade could also impact morale in Willis’s office because in-house staff could feel that Willis finds them “incapable,” Holloway warned.
Willis’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.
Georgia-based defense attorney Andrew Fleischman has also brought attention to the cost of Wade and his firm, writing on social media about how the exorbitant payments have been made “to a dude who has never tried a RICO case.”
Fleischman indicated in another social media statement that he found the payments to Wade “troubling,” particularly in light of what he described as the “massive backlog of cases” at the district attorney’s office.
A person familiar with the Fulton County district attorney’s office told the Washington Examiner he believed the payments to Wade and the others were not “getting the play that it should” in the media.
“Why is someone who is already on the government payroll not handling this?” he asked of the Trump case.
The person, who otherwise spoke highly of Willis and called her “smart as hell,” said the use of Wade “doesn’t feel right” and that “these are the taxpayers footing this. It’s very strange.”
Willis brought Wade on only “after several candidates turned her down,” according to the New York Times. The outlet did not specify which candidates Willis had attempted to bring on, noting that Wade was an “old friend” of Willis’s.
Wade also “mentored [Willis] when she briefly served as chief magistrate judge in South Fulton,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Wade’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Read Shafer’s motion request here:
David Shafer motion