Criminal law

Fannie Willis looks to gang law to criminally indict Trump

The next place former President Donald Trump may be charged is Atlanta, where the attorney general is Fanny Willis He has a history of great progress.

She achieved great success when she prosecuted dozens of Atlanta school officials, mostly teachers, for falsifying test results, winning 11 extortion convictions.

She did it again when she decided to pursue racketeering, drug, and other charges against the Grammy Award-winning rapper. The thug youthAnd more than twenty others.

The Fulton County, Georgia, district attorney said she will decide this month whether or not to do so Cost Trump and his supporters for their attempts to cancel the results of the 2020 elections in the state. Legal observers speculated that she would file charges under Georgia’s version of the Federal Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO — a law often associated with organized crime — just as she did in the Young Thug and Atlanta cases.

Police outside the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia, on August 7.

Photographer: Nicole Crane/Bloomberg

And if Trump is charged, it would add to his mounting legal troubles as he pursues his third bid for the White House. On Thursday, he pleaded not guilty to the charges by the special counsel John “Jack” Smith It accused him of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election. Smith separately accused Trump in Florida of illegally keeping classified documents and trying to obstruct their recovery. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg He also accused Trump of paying a porn star to boost his chances in the 2016 election.

Willis has been building her case against Trump and his allies for more than two years. Her office first convened a special grand jury and interviewed 75 witnesses. But that committee was only advisory and had no impeachment power. A grand jury has been set up to indict on July 11, and one of them is expected to hear Trump’s case. she said on July 29 television interview She will decide by September 1 whether or not to charge Trump.

“Job done,” Willis said. “We’ve been working for two and a half years. We’re ready to go.

Trump has attacked Willis with the same vitriol he has unleashed on Smith and Bragg. Both Willis and Bragg are black. Attorney and Georgia NAACP President Gerald Griggs said the attacks didn’t scare Willis.

“Fanny is the tough prosecutor,” he said. “She’s very premeditated. And if she thinks a crime has been committed, she’ll go as far as the law to get a conviction. She’s also the kind of person who doesn’t take kindly to attempts to intimidate her, either in person or via Tweet. Thinking of the 45th President.”

Fanny Willis

Photographer: David Walter Banks/The Washington Post/Getty Images

love of the law

Willis was to become a lawyer. Born in 1971 in Englewood, California, she divides her time between divorced parents. Her father, a former Black Panther turned criminal defense attorney, routinely brings her to court, instilling in her a love of the law.

After graduating from Howard University, she found her way to Atlanta through the Emory University School of Law. She worked in a small law firm and city government before joining the county attorney’s office. He was her boss and mentor Paul HowardGeorgia’s first black district attorney.

During the 16 years of Howard’s administration, she became his principal attorney and tried several high-profile cases. With a preacher’s talent for oratory and a mastery of public touch, she was an adept as a trial attorney.

In 2014, Willis made national news when she sued Atlanta school officials for changing test scores. The controversial case, whose eight-month trial was the longest in Georgia’s history, marked its first use of RICO.

J. Tom Morgan, former Attorney General, represented the defendant who had been dismissed from that case due to his deteriorating health. He went to court anyway to watch Willis.

“It’s normal with a jury,” he said. “She’s not like some prosecutors who don’t spend time in court. The courtroom is her sandbox. She has this innate talent for connecting with jurors.”

Willis left the attorney general’s office in 2018 to promote the judge’s seat. I lost. Two years later, she ran against Howard. By then, he was facing sexual harassment complaints, ethics investigations and backlash over a hasty indictment of two police officers involved in the shooting death of a black man. Willis received 72% of the vote.

And when she takes office in 2021, she is in shambles. The backlog of cases included 685 unaccused felony cases, 5,100 open cases dating back to the 1990s, and 11,000 other accused cases. Atlanta has also been seeing a spike in crime rates amid covid.

Willis, who declined to be interviewed for this article, portrays herself as an equal opportunity prosecutor, targeting blacks or whites, rich or poor. She is highly respected for her courtroom prowess, having described herself as “one of the best homicide prosecutors in this country. I’ve tried over 100 cases.”

She did it with affection gravity to the county council for more money, underscoring her case for protecting people like mothers of crime victims.

“He told me how we’re supposed to press charges in these cases without lawyers and investigators and paralegals to do it,” Willis said. How are we supposed to judge them? How are we going to tell them, our mothers, that we will do the best we can?

The county gave her office $5 million to hire 55 more employees. Last January, Willis told a crowd at a luncheon that the backlog of cases in her office was over.

Connection

What would become the defining status of Willis’ career arrived instantly. News of a taped phone call of Trump presses Georgia’s foreign minister Brad Raffensperger To find enough votes to reverse his loss, it was leaked less than 24 hours before Willis’ first day. She announced her investigation within weeks.

“Certainly not what we expected to inherit on day one,” she said. “You only deal with the hand you are dealt.”

The extortion trial is complex. Seven months after the extortion trial of Young Thug began, jury selection is still ongoing. About 2,100 potential jurors have started the process, 700 remain. They can hear a case against eight defendants that could run for nine months. Two pregnant attorneys claimed they were able to deliver children, end maternity leave, and return before the statements began. But the judge has since dismissed their clients from the case. Eight of the original 28 defendants pleaded guilty.

Willis makes clear her love of racketeering charges, saying jurors appreciate the broader scope: “RICO is a tool that allows the attorney general’s office and law enforcement to tell the whole story,” Willis said last year.

In the Trump case, Willis could tie Raffensperger’s advocacy, Trump supporters falsely claiming to be Georgia voters, false legislative testimony, and pressure on other state officials into one overarching story.

said Clark D. Cunningham, Professor of Law at Georgia State University: “The district attorney is at a crossroads.” On the one hand, it could follow the example of Jack Smith and present an indictment as simple as possible. Such an indictment would only mention the former president and might not include the RICO allegations. On the other hand, if it wanted to tell the story of a large-scale conspiracy, it would sacrifice simplicity in favor of RICO.

Willis has already received opposition from Trump.

“They have a segregationist Democrat local attorney in Atlanta who is doing everything she can to charge me because of a very perfect phone call,” Trump said after being charged in Manhattan.

Willis responded, “The comment doesn’t concern me at all.” “It’s ironic in nature, but I support his right to be protected by the First Amendment and to say what he wants.”

She faces potential backlash from her constituents if she does not press charges. In Democratic Fulton County, where Joe Biden defeated Trump by a 3-to-1 margin, many want her to use the same blackmail cudgel against Trump that she used against the black defendants.

Griggs, the NAACP president, said he expects Trump to be charged. Trump would then have to “surrender to the Fulton County sheriff, where he will be booked, fingerprinted, and photographed, like any other defendant in the state of Georgia.”


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