A judge in Fulton County, Georgia, has granted a request by a Republican nominee for lieutenant governor to stop District Attorney Fani Willis from using him in her criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump and efforts by his allies to determine the results of the 2020 election to reverse, to take aim.
Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney on Monday barred Willis from starting a trial against Burt Jones, a state senator running for lieutenant governor, after she launched a fundraiser to support Democratic nominee Charlie Bailey in his runoff against a other Democratic challenger who ultimately lost, Kwanza Hall.
McBurney said Willis’ participation in the fundraiser was “detrimental” to the integrity of the investigation.
“Every decision the prosecutor makes about Senator Jones in connection with the grand jury investigation is necessarily infected with it,” the judge wrote, adding that any attempt to focus specifically on Jones, even if warranted, would raise “completely reasonable concerns” of politically motivated persecution.”
Willis’ interest in Jones stems from post-election efforts by some state Republicans to create an alternate list of 16 presidential elections, even after an official vote count showed Trump lost by thousands of votes. Jones is one of the “wrong voters” identified as targets in the investigation.
McBurney said an additional decision by Willis to donate privately to Bailey’s campaign was not in itself disqualifying, as Jones’ lawyer had argued, but he said the move “added the weight of the conflict created by the broader, more direct, public and professional activity-related campaign work conducted by the District Attorney on behalf of candidate Bailey.”
“This choice – which the prosecutor had to make as an elected official – has consequences. She had bestowed the imprimatur of her office on Senator Jones’ opponent,” he added.
A special grand jury convened in January began obtaining evidence in the investigation last month, and Willis subpoenaed at least a dozen of the bogus voters, including Jones. He joined 11 of the wrong voters to petition the grand jury to overturn their subpoenas. While McBurney granted Jones’ motion to bar Willis from investigating him, the judge denied efforts to bar Willis from investigating the others.
McBurney said his decision meant Willis could not subpoena Jones, publicly categorize him as a target, or ask the grand jury to include recommendations about him in their final report. While Willis can gather evidence of Jones’ involvement in efforts to undermine the 2020 election results, she cannot use such evidence to build a case against Jones, the judge said. Any decision on charges would be left to a different prosecutor’s office, McBurney wrote.
NBC News has reached out to Willis’ office for comment.
https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/judge-disqualifies-fulton-county-district-attorney-targeting-georgia-l-rcna39870 Judge Disqualifies Fulton County District Attorney From Assaulting Georgia Lieutenant Governor In Election Inquiry