The Georgia prosecutor investigated in the Trump case was convicted of contempt last year

The lawyer who alleged the affair has provided no evidence, and Willis has said she would respond in court documents. A lawyer for Wade declined to comment.

Even setting aside the salacious allegation, the contempt ruling against Wade in August 2023 shows that he was waging his own deeply personal legal battle – and being admonished by a judge – while helping to preside over one of the most consequential criminal cases in American history: the Impeachment of Trump and numerous allies over their attempt to undermine the state's 2020 election results.

Wade is a divorce lawyer himself – his Atlanta law firm's website touts “decades of experience” handling divorce cases. He has little experience leading complex, high-profile prosecutions, and Willis' decision to hire him as a “special prosecutor” in the Trump case has come under intense scrutiny in recent days.

It is unclear whether Wade received a fine or other punishment as part of the contempt ruling. According to court documents, he appears to have eventually handed over the income documents in question.

But any finding of contempt represents a serious and unusual rebuke from a judge, Georgia family law experts said.

“This is bizarre,” said Randall Kessler, an Atlanta divorce lawyer who formerly headed the family law section of the American Bar Association. “The judge basically said, 'Shame on you'.”

“It's not a good position to actually be in willful contempt,” said Yaniv Heled, a professor at Georgia State College of Law who focuses on family law. “It’s not a place you want to be with the judge.”

A special prosecutor in the spotlight

Wade joined the Willis team as an external contractor on November 1, 2021. The next day, he filed for divorce from his wife of more than 24 years, Joycelyn Wade.

In the two years since, the Fulton County District Attorney's Office has paid him nearly $700,000 for his work leading the Trump case, according to a court filing filed by his wife.

On Jan. 8, an attorney for Mike Roman, a former Trump 2020 campaign official who is being charged with conspiracy to suppress the election along with Trump, filed court documents in the criminal case accusing Wade and Willis of carrying out a “secret “To have a love relationship. Roman's attorney, Ashleigh Merchant, also claimed that the two used some of Wade's earnings from the Trump case to vacation together. Merchant is seeking to have Willis and Wade disqualified and the case dismissed – an outcome that legal experts say is unlikely. Trump and Roman have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

Judge Scott McAfee, who is presiding over the case, said in court Friday that he expects to hold a hearing on Merchant's allegations in early February. The case does not yet have a trial date.

The allegations are now shaking up a wide-ranging and highly sensitive case. Trump has amplified the allegations on social media, although his lawyer Steve Sadow told the judge he was “skeptical” to join Merchant's call for Willis to be disqualified. The prosecutor herself could appear as a witness in Wade's divorce proceedings. And a new review of the divorce's legal documents – a file that has since been sealed – provides details about how Wade flouted a court order amid a protracted dispute over his income.

In 2022 and 2023, lawyers for Wade's wife accused Wade of failing to turn over documents showing how much money he earned – a common exchange of information in divorce proceedings.

The information Wade provided “was so woefully inadequate as to be useless,” his wife's lawyers wrote in court papers.

For his part, Wade said he had provided all the necessary documents. Wade's attorney accused Wade's wife in court filings of being “stubbornly argumentative and dragging the matter out for no reason.”

“Willful Contempt”

On May 10, 2023, Judge Henry Thompson, who is overseeing the divorce, concluded that Wade had “inadequately responded” to his wife's disclosure requests. He ordered the prosecutor to turn over a variety of financial documents, including all proof of income since 2016. If Wade doesn't comply, he would face contempt and sanctions, the judge threatened.

Three months later, the judge found that Wade had not complied with that request. On August 17, 2023, the same week that Wade helped secure an indictment in the Trump case, the judge issued an order finding Wade in “willful disregard” of his instructions. To avoid sanctions, he must deliver the material within ten days, the order states.

There is no indication in documents reviewed by POLITICO that Wade was sanctioned.

But more than a month later, Wade's wife filed a motion to reopen the investigation – meaning she believed her husband still hadn't given her all the information she needed.

And, the motion goes on to say, she had just learned that her husband was working on the impeachment of Trump.

“The plaintiff has not provided a single document substantiating this income,” the motion states. “The plaintiff has not provided a single bank statement showing where these funds went.”

On October 24, 2023, the judge granted her request to reopen the evidence. Less than two months later, Wade's wife told the divorce court that her husband had earned nearly $700,000 for his work on the Trump case as of May 2022. She added that he gave her “almost nothing” in financial support – a claim that Wade's lawyers disputed in court documents.

Kessler, the Atlanta divorce lawyer, said it's unusual for judges to hold people in contempt during divorce proceedings. That's because they give parties so many options to comply.

“It’s rare for it to reach this level,” he said.

But Kessler added that he found it unlikely that Wade planned to keep his earnings from the Trump case secret. That's because the work was so public and attracted national media attention.