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Winery host says he remembers D.A. Fani Willis paying cash for California Napa Valley wine tasting

Next steps in Fani Willis misconduct case
Examining next steps in Fani Willis misconduct case 03:57

It's not yet known whether District Attorney Fani Willis and special prosecutor Nathan Wade will be removed from Fulton County's 2020 Georgia election interference case involving former President Donald Trump, but one issue that came up during Willis' recent testimony — her predilection for using cash — rang true for one winery employee in California who says he met Willis and Wade last year.

Trump co-defendant Michael Roman, in a motion to disqualify Willis and her office from the case, alleges Willis improperly financially benefited from a romantic relationship with Wade, an accusation that sparked a fiery hearing late last week. Willis testified that while the pair went on several luxury trips, she always reimbursed Wade for her share in cash.  

The issue, critics say, is that Wade has been paid over $650,000 in the position that he was appointed to by Willis. Defense attorneys are trying to show Willis, who has acknowledged that a romantic relationship with Wade that began after she hired him in November 2021 and ended last summer, benefited from hiring Wade because he took her on several trips. The two have sought to refute the allegation by testifying that she paid her own way or reimbursed Wade. 

"I don't need anything from a man — a man is not a plan. A man is a companion. And so there was tension always in our relationship, which is why I would give him his money back," Willis testified. Defense attorneys expressed skepticism about the cash reimbursements and asked Wade if he had any proof that Willis repaid him in cash. He said he did not. 

But a man named Stan Brody says he's seen evidence of Willis' preference for paying in cash. He says he hosted Willis and Wade in early 2023 at the Napa Valley winery Acumen Wines. Brody recalled that the pair spent hours tasting wine, and when it came time to pay, Willis used cash. 

"It's not the norm," he said. "The bill was a little over $400 with the taxes and everything else on it. So she probably gave me $500." 

While paying such a large bill in cash is not the norm at the winery, Brody said it wasn't shocking, either. 

But he did say that "ninety-plus percent of the time it's going to be a credit card, especially when you get up, you know, to several hundred dollars," he said. 

During the hearing last week, Willis testified that she keeps cash on hand because of advice from her father to have at least six months' worth at a time. "I always have cash at the house," she said.

Brody said when he met the pair, he had no idea who Wade or Willis were, since the trip occurred before a Fulton County grand jury had indicted Trump and 18 associates. He recalled that during the private wine tasting session with the pair, he inquired about their work and said both told him they were attorneys working in criminal law. 

Once the indictment was issued in late August, Brody said he realized that it was indeed Willis who had come to the winery earlier that year. 

The push to remove Wade and Willis from the Fulton County case continues after two days of heated testimony late last week. The judge presiding over the matter has not yet scheduled a follow-up hearing to discuss more arguments from both sides in the matter. Once arguments conclude, a ruling is expected on whether or not Willis, Wade or both will be removed from the case. 

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