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Judge says DA in Trump election case could be 'disqualified,' misconduct hearing 'must' occur

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Judge says DA in Trump election case could be 'disqualified,' misconduct hearing 'must' occur


The judge overseeing former President Donald Trump’s Georgia election interference case says that misconduct allegations leveled against Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis “could result in disqualification,” and that a hearing on the matter “must” occur.

Fulton County Judge Scott McAfee made the remarks at the start of a hearing Monday to determine whether Willis, prosecutor Nathan Wade, and others will have to testify Thursday during a hearing the judge had scheduled to hear arguments on the matter.

Willis and Wade had sought to have the Thursday hearing canceled, but the judge’s remarks suggested it will proceed as planned.

Wills and Wade, along with a number of employees in the DA’s office, have been subpoenaed to testify Thursday by Trump co-defendant Michael Roman, who last month filed a motion seeking to dismiss the election charges against him and disqualify Willis on the grounds that she allegedly engaged in a “personal, romantic relationship” with Wade, one of her top prosecutors in the election case, which allegedly resulted in financial gain for both of them.

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A subsequent court filing from Willis admitted to the relationship but denied that there was any financial conflict of interest that would disqualify her from the case. Roman then accused the DA of misrepresenting in that filing aspects of the relationship, including when it began.

“Because I think it’s possible that the facts alleged by the defendant could result in disqualification, I think an evidentiary hearing must occur to establish the record on those core allegations,” Judge McAfee said during Monday’s hearing.

Arguing for the DA’s office, Fulton County prosecutor Anna Cross urged the judge to quash the subpoenas. While she acknowledged that the state has not interviewed the potential witnesses, Cross said, “What they would say they would not in any way support the wild speculation that was included in this motion.”

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis appears before Judge Scott McAfee for a hearing in the 2020 Georgia election interference case at the Fulton County Courthouse on Nov. 21, 2023 in Atlanta.

Dennis Byron-Pool/Getty Images, FILE

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Cross said that any of the costs incurred when Wade and Willis traveled together were evenly split and do not present a financial conflict as the defense alleges.

“This is a serious case. These are serious charges,” Cross said, later adding, “The defense is bringing you gossip … and the court should not condone that practice.”

An attorney for Roman pushed back, telling the judge that the witnesses have information that is “relevant” to the allegations.

Attorney Ashleigh Merchant said Willis and Wade have the “most relevant” information and that a former Wade business associate has information that Willis and Wade’s personal relationship “predated” Wade being hired on the case, which would contradict the DA’s filing.

“He has firsthand knowledge that this relationship predated” Wade being hired, Merchant said of the associate, Terrence Bradley.

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Cross responded that she would be “shocked” if Merchant was able to prove that, and that she doesn’t “believe that’s true.”

“The evidence would be that the timeline that’s being represented is either mistaken … or simply fabricated,” Cross said.

In an earlier filing, Willis’ office asked the judge to quash the subpoenas to her, Wade, the DA’s office employees, and Wade’s business associate, calling the effort “harassment and disruption.” She has also asked the judge to cancel the upcoming evidentiary hearing altogether.

Willis has argued there is “no factual basis” that “could reasonably justify requiring” her and a number of her employees to become witnesses in the case, and accused Roman of “an attempt to conduct discovery in a (rather belated) effort to support reckless accusations.”

“Harassment and disruption of this type should not be entertained,” the filing said.

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Wade also filed a motion seeking to quash a subpoena for his bank records, and a former DA’s office employee is also seeking to quash a subpoena issued to her.

Trump has joined in on the effort to disqualify Willis and dismiss his charges, accusing the DA of violating her office’s ethics obligations with statements she made at a church in the wake of the allegations.

Trump, Roman, and 17 others pleaded not guilty in August to all charges in a sweeping racketeering indictment for alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the state of Georgia.

Four defendants in the case subsequently took plea deals in exchange for agreeing to testify against other defendants.



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Georgia

For Misdemeanor Poverty, Georgia Would Assign Mandatory Cash Bail – Filter

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For Misdemeanor Poverty, Georgia Would Assign Mandatory Cash Bail – Filter


February 29 is Crossover Day in the Georgia General Assembly, with lawmakers clambering over each other to advance their bills of choice before the legislative session comes to a close. Except Senator Randy Robertson (R), sponsor of the proposal to dramatically expand cash bail, which was one of the only major bills to already sail onward to the governor’s desk. Nothing brings lawmakers together quite like punishing the poor.

There are currently 14 charges for which the state of Georgia requires cash bail. Senate Bill 63 would add 30 new ones, then forbid people accused of those charges from receiving almost any assistance from charities or nonprofits, or even loved ones. If they can’t pay their assigned bail, they will languish in the death traps that are Georgia’s overcrowded jails. Most of the 30 charges are misdemeanors, and wouldn’t be punishable by incarceration if the person were actually convicted. 

“I think if the individual honestly conveyed to the judge that they were basically destitute, then I think there are ways for the individual to make bond,” Robertson stated at a Committee on Public Safety hearing earlier in February, in defense of his bill to legally abolish most ways for destitute individuals to make bond.

“The criminal trespass may have been vagrancy, in order to break into an abandoned house that belonged to someone else in order to stay in it, and in cases like that most likely the charge would be dismissed,” he continued, in a tone concerningly devoid of sarcasm. “But in Georgia being broke is not a viable defense for committing a crime.”

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Many groups and individual humans out there post bond for people who can’t afford it on their own, but SB 63 would cap their efforts at three recipients each per year. Defendants who can’t afford bail must deal only with approved bail bondsmen. Except defendants who are undocumented, whom even the bail bondsmen are forbidden from helping.

More than going after people for shoplifting and squatting, SB 63 is after people who have shoplifted and squatted before.

SB 63 would undo many judicial reforms enacted under former Governor Nathan Deal (R). ACLU Georgia has vowed to sue if Governor Brian Kemp (R) signs the bill into law, stating that “[no]t only is SB 63 bad policy, it is illegal. It unconstitutionally criminalizes poverty and restricts conduct protected by the First Amendment.”

The legislature obviously doesn’t expect defendants to be able to personally produce thousands of dollars at the ready, or SB 63 wouldn’t be aimed specifically at people who do not have money. Many of the 30 new bail-restricted charges describe activities people engage in entirely because they have been chronically without money. “Theft by taking, [on] the person’s second or subsequent offense”; “criminal trespass, [on] the person’s second or subsequent offense.”

More than going after people for shoplifting and squatting, SB 63 is after those “habitual violators” who have shoplifted and squatted before. It also targets those who would disrupt the accumulation of wealth by the wealthy, as Stop Cop City organizers did in 2022. But for the most part, constituents who are not one economic hiccup away from being sent to the gulag are often perfectly willing to accept the rules of tyrants, who vow to keep them safe from the people with no money or resources.

Introducing someone into the criminal-legal system rarely improves the trajectory of their life.

What options do people have, when you prosecute them for having nothing? They could run, and join the many disenfranchised souls dispersed in rural encampments across the state, but of course “fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer” is also among the 30 new bail-restricted charges. Missing a court date is another, for people who’ve missed court dates before. Jumping bail has been assigned mandatory bail all along.

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The problem is obviously not that Georgia has too many dangerous criminals. The problem is that people have nowhere to live. Rather than house them, the state intends to profoundly destabilize their life and heap on new sources of debt. If that doesn’t improve their housing prospects, they don’t deserve to be free. 

Introducing someone into the criminal-legal system rarely improves the trajectory of their life. A couple of days in jail, even without a conviction, is the off-ramp from the highway of “contributing to society,” as lawmakers like to say. 

Still, it isn’t all bad. The thousands of us who have served decades inside Georgia Department of Corrections prisons are in fact heartened by SB 63’s breakaway success. If the prison population grows rapidly enough to compel the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles to actually grant some of us parole, we would gladly give up our beds to needy newcomers.

 


 

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Photograph via City of Brookhaven, Georgia



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Through the Lens: 21st Annual Georgia Classic – University of Georgia Athletics

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Through the Lens: 21st Annual Georgia Classic – University of Georgia Athletics


ATHENS, Ga. – This past weekend, I had the opportunity to cover all of Georgia’s games in the 21st Annual Georgia Classic. 

With our team coming off an impressive weekend at the Clearwater Invitational in Florida, I was excited to be out at Jack Turner Stadium in Athens.

As a photographer, it is part of my job to show the action during the game, but also the moments before and after. This image of Sydney Kuma and Sara Mosley is the perfect example of a quiet moment between teammates before the intensity of competition starts. Another part of my job is to stay out of the way and the mirrorless cameras I use allow me to take photos silently which is very helpful when being close to a moment like this.

In this photo, Ellie Armistead prepares to step off the base before a pitch is thrown. When I am covering any sporting event, I always try to show how close I am to the action with detailed photos like this one. The 70-200 telephoto lens I use allows me to zoom in really close to focus on details nobody else can see. 

After a few innings, I like to get out of my position in the dugout and walk around to find a different angle or perspective. It was a beautiful day on Saturday and this photo shows that while also showing the support of the fans for our team.

 

When capturing the action of a game, there can be a lot of obstacles that get in the way of focusing your camera. This photo of Rachel Gibson pitching is cleaned up by taking an overhead angle behind home plate.

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Whenever I am covering Georgia softball, I am always prepared for home runs. I prefer to focus on the emotion and joy of the batter rounding the bases instead of the moment the bat hits the ball. This photo of Jayda Kearney rounding third to celebrate with her coach and teammates is one of my favorites from the weekend.

With a 16-35 wide angle lens, I am able to take photos that have a perspective closer to what the human eye sees. For this photo, I crouched down for a lower angle to emphasize the focus of the photo which was Madison Kerpics running out to the pitcher’s circle.

Sara Mosley capped off the weekend with an outstanding performance at the plate on Sunday. She went 3-for-3 with two home runs and drove in five of Georgia’s eight runs. I like this photo of her celebration after her second home run because it shows more emotion than her first. Even during a game where the same thing happens twice, a small change in someone’s reaction can make a big difference for the final photo.

I am certain there will be a lot more moments like this throughout the season. Softball is always a blast to photograph and I am looking forward to the rest of an exciting season.

# @UGAsoftball #



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Georgia Power could face new law to disclose its cost of power generation on customer bills – Georgia Recorder

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Georgia Power could face new law to disclose its cost of power generation on customer bills – Georgia Recorder


A bill aimed at increasing transparency into Georgia Power customer’s bills has cleared the House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee ahead of a critical deadline this week.

The House committee unanimously approved on Tuesday Chairman Don Parsons’ House Bill 1406 that would require Georgia Power to provide on customer bills information about the average overall cost of fuel used by the electric supplier to generate kilowatt hours of electricity charged to the customer for the billing period.

It’s the second time in recent days the state’s largest electricity supplier with strong lobbyist representation at the state Capitol has been the subject of proposals to rein in some of its business practices. Late last week, a state Senate committee supported a bill proposing the creation of a consumer advocate to represent ratepayer interests with Georgia Power files for a rate hike.

Parsons said he drafted the bill so customers can better understand how much the state’s largest utility company charges based on energy costs. The information includes the average cost for Georgia Power to produce a kilowatt hour of electricity from coal, natural gas, solar and nuclear energy over the previous year.

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The fate of the bill now rests with the House Rules Committee ahead of Thursday’s Crossover deadline for legislation to advance out of one chamber during the 2024 session.

Parsons said that during his 30 years of serving on utilities legislation committees, he could only recall Georgia Power supporting legislation that it asked a lawmaker to sponsor. The bill comes on the heels of  state regulators approving several Georgia Power bill increases due to increased electricity base rates, overrun costs associated with building the Vogtle nuclear power plant units, coal ash cleanup and other expenses.

“I think having this kind of transparency could really alleviate a lot of those concerns, particularly when  fuel costs go up also happens to be around the same time that another rate hike happens,” said Parsons, a Marietta Republican.

Jeff Grubb, director of resource and  policy planning at Georgia Power said one of the reasons the company opposes the bill is that a good deal of the information can be found on the customer bills and the company’s website.

For example, Georgia Power updates its fuel costs for energies like coal, nuclear and natural gas every year under the company’s facts and figures section online, he said.

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Grubb cautioned that many customers could become confused by including information that’s not directly tied to the rates customers are paying on that particular bill.

“If customers are looking to make changes to their bill, or to add a resource or behind the meter solar, we have teams that will work with those customers and provide them all the information that they need to make those types of decisions,” Grubb said.

Grubb said that when a customer’s power bills fluctuate, it’s typically due to the usage of electricity and the fuel costs Georgia Power receives is determined in rate cases that goes before the Public Service Commision. The company can come back later to recoup some of the extra fuel costs if they exceeded projections  based on the energy commodities market, Grubb said. 

He also said that providing how much Georgia Power has paid for fuel within the past couple of months puts the company at risk of providing trade secrets in a volatile energy market. 

“We have less concern or no concern with something from last year a few months ago, but something that we just got finished with and our annual expenses in a month causes us concerns from a business confidentiality point because it could harm customers,” Grubb said.

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Parsons said that Grubb must think Georgia Power has a lot of “dumb” customers who will be confused by providing more information on what it costs to do business.

“If I’m getting a new roof put on the house and the contractor tells me this summer this is going to cost this much, I say well, okay, how much does it cost you for each bundle of roofing material that you use? I would expect him to tell me how much,” Parsons said.

“I don’t know why Georgia Power would not want to provide this basic information to a customer. You keep talking about proprietary secrets and things like that,” Parsons said. “You’re defending the company, but you’re not looking out for the customer.”

Bob Sherrier, staff attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, says Georgia Power’s policy with the Public Service Commission lets the company charge customers 100% of its fuel costs.

“For example, in last year’s (fuel cost recovery) proceeding, the average residential bill was increased by about $16 a month to pay for mostly gas spikes the prior year,” he said. “I think that this is a good bill and that this kind of information is important for the people who actually have to pay for it to know.”

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Rep. Beth Camp, a Concord Republican, said she would appreciate a breakdown of coal, natural gas, nuclear, and solar power on her Georgia Power bill.

Woodstock Republican Rep. Jordan Ridley recommended that Georgia Power get out of the electricity business if it is so concerned about protecting trade secrets.

“Anytime we have government-run monopolies, we need to have as much transparency as possible,” he said.

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