Atlanta DA barred from calling Georgia state senator before grand jury in election fraud case
The Atlanta area district attorney leading a wide-ranging investigation into election interference involving former President Donald Trump was barred Monday from pursuing a Republican state senator after a local judge found a conflict of interest in the prosecutor's public support for the senator's opponent in an upcoming race for lieutenant governor.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney concluded that District Attorney Fani Willis' support for Democrat Charlie Bailey disqualified her from calling Georgia state Sen. Burt Jones before a special grand jury as a potential target in the criminal inquiry.
Willis had co-hosted a June fundraiser for Bailey and donated to his primary campaign.
"She (Willis) has bestowed her office’s imprimatur upon Senator Jones’s opponent. And since then, she has publicly (in her pleadings) labeled Senator Jones “target” of the grand jury’s investigation," McBurney said in his ruling. "This scenario creates plain -- and actual and untenable -- conflict.
"Any decision the District Attorney makes about Senator Jones in connection with the grand jury investigation is necessarily infected by it," the judge concluded.
Willis had sought to question Jones as part of a group of fake Georgia electors who allegedly attempted to overturn President Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 election.
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The judge's decision only applies to Jones, not to any other witnesses in the fast-moving Fulton County investigation. A number of Trump allies have been subpoenaed in the case, including personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The district attorney also has been weighing whether to call Trump before the grand jury.
While Willis' office may not question or pursue a criminal case against Jones, the judge did not exempt Jones from possible legal jeopardy. McBurney said a decision, "as to whether any charges should be brought, and what they should be," would be left to different prosecutor to be selected by a state Prosecuting Attorneys Council.
Willis' office said Monday officials were reviewing the decision.
Jones, meanwhile, cast the judge's decision as "a huge win for our campaign—but more importantly, for due process and the rule of law in Georgia."