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Ex-law partner is evasive as attorneys press for details on Willis and Wade’s romance in Trump case

Feb 27, 2024, 8:29 AM | Updated: 2:56 pm

Terrence Bradley, special prosecutor Nathan Wade’s former law partner and onetime divorce attorne...

Terrence Bradley, special prosecutor Nathan Wade’s former law partner and onetime divorce attorney, walks to the witness stand to testify in court Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Atlanta. Bradley testified as a judge considered an effort by lawyers for former President Donald Trump to disqualify Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis over her romantic relationship with a top prosecutor who had been Bradley's law partner. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, Pool)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, Pool)

ATLANTA (AP) — A former law partner of Fulton County special prosecutor Nathan Wade was evasive on the witness stand Tuesday as lawyers pressed him on details about a romantic relationship between Wade and District Attorney Fani Willis that has roiled the 2020 Georgia election case against Donald Trump.

Terrence Bradley, who also served for a time as Wade’s divorce attorney, was expected to be a key witness for lawyers seeking to remove Willis from one of four criminal cases against the former president. But when they questioned him, Bradley repeatedly said he did not know or could not remember when Willis and Wade’s relationship began.

When attorneys confronted Bradley about a text message in which he said the relationship started when Willis was working as a municipal court judge, Bradley told the court he had only been “speculating.” Defense lawyers appeared to grow increasingly frustrated with his lack of answers, with Trump’s lawyer at one point essentially accusing Bradley of lying on the witness stand.

“You do in fact know when it started. And you don’t want to testify to that in court, that’s the best explanation, isn’t it?” Trump attorney Steve Sadow asked. “That’s the true explanation because you don’t want to admit it in court, correct?”

Bradley’s testimony was thought to be potentially crucial as defense attorneys seek to undercut Willis and Wade’s claims about when their romantic relationship began. That timeline has become a central issue as defense attorneys push to have the pair disqualified from the case, arguing that their relationship created a conflict of interest.

Bradley’s testimony provided the latest courtroom foray into the personal lives of the prosecutors pursuing a hugely consequential prosecution of the former president and leading Republican candidate. It further laid bare how an investigation that began with direct evidence of Trump’s efforts to remain in power has instead taken on a soap opera atmosphere, bogged down by testimony about sex, dating, cash stashes and text messages involving neither Trump nor any of the defendants but rather the law enforcement officials leading the case.

But even as the hearings put salacious details about the prosecutors’ private lives under a microscope, it remained unclear whether defense attorneys would succeed in convincing the judge that Willis’ relationship with Wade presented a conflict of interest that should force them off the case.

Willis and Wade testified under oath that they didn’t begin dating until the spring of 2022, after he was hired as special prosecutor in November 2021 and that the relationship ended last summer. Willis has said there was nothing improper about the relationship, telling a defense attorney after she agreed to take the witness stand earlier this month: “I’m not on trial no matter how hard you try to put me on trial.”

Other information, however, has raised questions about the truthfulness of the prosecutors’ testimony. One witness, a former friend and employee of Willis, told the court earlier this month that she saw the pair hugging and kissing before Wade was hired as special prosecutor.

On Tuesday, an attorney for Trump co-defendant Michael Roman, Ashleigh Merchant, read aloud a text message in which she had asked Bradley if he thought Willis and Wade started dating before Willis hired Wade. Bradley replied “absolutely.”

But when asked repeatedly under oath about when the relationship began, Bradley testified he did not know.

“I have no direct knowledge of when the relationship started,” Bradley said.

Bradley had cited attorney-client privilege in refusing to answer most questions during an extraordinary two-day evidentiary hearing earlier this month. But after meeting with Bradley and his attorney behind closed doors Monday, Judge Scott McAfee said he found that some of Bradley’s communications with Wade were not subject to privilege, clearing the way for the lawyer to testify Tuesday.

McAfee has also scheduled arguments for Friday afternoon on whether Willis and her office should be removed from the case.

Willis’ removal would be a stunning development in the most sprawling of the four criminal cases against Trump. If she were disqualified, a nonpartisan council that supports prosecuting attorneys in Georgia would need to find a new attorney to take over. That successor could either proceed with the charges against Trump and 14 others or drop the case altogether. Even if a new lawyer went forward with the case, it would very likely not go to trial before November, when Trump is expected to be the Republican nominee for president.

A Fulton County grand jury indicted Trump and 18 others in August, accusing them of participating in a wide-ranging scheme to illegally try to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia. Four people have pleaded guilty after reaching deals with prosecutors. Trump and the remaining 14 have pleaded not guilty.

The effort to remove Willis and her office from the case began last month with a motion filed by Roman and has since been joined by the former president and some other defendants. Roman’s filing alleges that Willis paid Wade large sums for his work and then improperly benefited when he used his earnings to take her on vacations. It also alleges that Willis and Wade were already dating when she hired him in November 2021.

Willis and Wade have both said that they shared travel expenses, with Willis reimbursing Wade with cash for some charges on his credit card.

___

Richer reported from Boston. Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.

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Ex-law partner is evasive as attorneys press for details on Willis and Wade’s romance in Trump case