Advertisement

Experts Warn Fani Willis’ Recent Comments Could Be Problematic

Advertisement

OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis made headlines again when she said the “train is coming” when speaking about the prosecution of former President Donald Trump and his 14 co-defendants.

Willis, who almost faced disqualification in the previous president’s election subversion case due to her romantic relationship with her former lead prosecutor, has stated that she continued to work on the case during the two months of related court action and that the disqualification effort did not hinder her progress.

“While that was going on, we were writing responsive briefs, we were still doing the case in a way that it needed to be done. I don’t feel like we’ve been slowed down at all. I do think there are efforts to slow down this train, but the train is coming,” Willis said Saturday at an Atlanta-area Easter event.

“We’re not going to miss or skip a beat because of all the noise or distraction on one case. We’re going to continue to do our work,” she added.

The DA told CNN that she doesn’t feel as if he needs to restore her reputation among Fulton County residents.

“I’m not embarrassed by anything I’ve done. I guess my greatest crime is I had a relationship with a man, but that’s not something I find embarrassing in any way. And I know that I have not done anything that’s illegal,” Willis told the outlet.

Advertisement

“I am not a perfect human being, but what I am is a hard-working human being, and a human being that loves the community I serve and who understands this seat does not belong to me, it belongs to the people,” Willis later added, telling CNN she feels “more loved” by the community following the intense scrutiny over her relationship with ex-special prosecutor Nathan Wade. “And as long as I’m here, I’m going to try to do the job in a way that’s honorable.”

WATCH:

Several legal analysts are sounding the alarm about her comments.

Atlanta defense attorney Andrew Fleischman told Salon that Willis “should not” be making those comments.

“Prosecutors announcing at the outset of a case who they’re indicting, the charges being brought and why is fine, but they should not make public statements that have no legitimate law enforcement purpose even in the context of a political campaign,” Fleischman said.

“They strengthen arguments for gag orders and disqualification, and they harm the public’s trust that this trial is about holding people accountable for crimes they have committed, rather than as part of an overall political strategy,” Fleischman added.

Advertisement

Georgia State University law professor Clark Cunningham made similar comments, telling Salon that Willis’ comments to CNN sounded like “campaign remarks” that “were really addressed to an audience of voters for the upcoming primary and general election.”

When asked if she’d consider a plea deal with Trump or any of the remaining co-defendants after reaching guilty pleas with four people originally charged in the indictment, Willis told CNN she is “always open-minded and reasonable” and that her office “will listen to those explanations.”

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti said on X that Willis’ comments about future guilty pleas come with “the obvious implication” that the “‘price’ of a plea deal has gone up for defendants who sought to disqualify” her.

According to Fleischman, the statement in question violates a Georgia prosecutorial ethics rule prohibiting prosecutors from “making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused.”

“Saying that the ‘train is coming’ and implying that the defendants will now get less favorable plea deals because of a motion that was filed seems like it is meant to heighten condemnation of the accused,” Fleischman said.

Fleischman and Cunningham did argue that they do not believe Willis’ comments will likely “have any effect” on the future of the case.

Fleischman added, “On the other hand, the defense may prefer that she keep talking, and may ask to submit clips of her interviews as evidence at trial.”

“I do think that the credibility of the case has taken a terrible hit because of her conduct,” Cunningham said, arguing that the “odor of mendacity” that Judge McAfee wrote in his decision earlier this month remains over the prosecution and “dissipates if she takes a leave.”

Test your skills with this Quiz!