Black History 365: Fani T. Willis
Fani Taifa Willis (FAH-nee, born October 27, 1971) is an American attorney from the state of Georgia. She is the district attorney of Fulton County, Georgia, which contains most of Atlanta. She is the first woman to hold the office of Fulton County district attorney.
Willis graduated from Howard University and Emory University School of Law. She spent 16 years as a prosecutor in the Fulton County district attorney‘s office. Her most prominent case was her prosecution of the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal. In 2018, she went into private practice. That year, she ran for a seat on the Fulton County Superior Court, and lost. In 2020, Willis was elected district attorney for Fulton County, defeating Paul Howard, a six-term incumbent and her former boss.
2020 election influence investigation
On February 10, 2021, Willis launched a criminal investigation into a telephone call with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and other attempts by Donald Trump to influence Georgia election officials, including the governor and the attorney general, to “find” enough votes to override Joe Biden‘s win in that state and thus undo Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election . In January 2022, she requested a special grand jury to consider charges of election interference by Trump and his allies. A 26-member special grand jury was given investigative authority and subpoena power and tasked with submitting a report to the judge and Willis on whether a crime was committed.
On July 5, 2022, the judge approved a subpoena for members of Trump’s legal team—Rudy Giuliani, Kenneth Chesebro, John Eastman, Jenna Ellis and Cleta Mitchell—along with Senator Lindsey Graham and former Capitol Hill counsel Jacki Pick Deason. On August 4, the grand jury subpoenaed Governor Brian Kemp. Giuliani was told on August 15, two days before he testified before the special grand jury, that he was a target of the investigation. A federal judge upheld the subpoena for Graham, stating he must testify on August 23, but an appeals court granted him a delay. Ellis is believed to have testified on August 25. Eastman testified on August 31. In early September, the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas ruled that Deason (who lives in Texas) need not testify. Because the Fulton County special grand jury cannot indict, neither can it compel testimony, the appeals court argued.
Willis has sent target letters to people she is investigating related to the fake electors plot. These include three Republican officials — State Senator Burt Jones, State Senator Brandon Beach, and David Shafer, chairman of the Georgia Republican Party — and the 16 people who falsely presented themselves as electors. However, she was told by a judge she could not target Jones due to a conflict of interest.
In August 2022, Sidney Powell was asked to appear due to her involvement in arranging for the collection of data from the voting machines and systems at the county’s elections office in rural Coffee County in January 2021.
Atlanta gang indictments
In May 2022, Willis’ office indicted Young Thug for 56 counts of gang-related crimes under Georgia’s RICO statute and felony charges for possession of illicit firearms and drugs that were allegedly discovered after a search warrant was executed. The rapper has been held in Cobb County jail since his arrest.