Jul 25, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Judge blocks Atlanta DA from investigating lawmaker in 2020 election probe

State Sen. Burt Jones during a primary debate in May. Photo: Brynn Anderson/AP Pool

An Atlanta judge has granted a Republican Georgia state lawmaker's request to disqualify the district attorney leading a probe into efforts to overturn the 2020 election from investigating him directly.

Why it matters: State Sen. Burt Jones served on the slate of Republican electors who falsely "certified" a Trump victory in December 2020 and was a leading proponent of a special legislative session after the election. He has been named — along with all other electors — as possible targets of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis's investigation.

Driving the news: In a Monday order, Fulton County superior court judge Robert McBurney agreed with Jones, that the DA could not subpoena or bring charges against Jones in the probe given a political conflict. The office may still, he said, collect evidence about Jones and question others about him.

Catch up quick: Jones is also running for lieutenant governor and asked for Willis's disqualification after she supported and headlined fundraisers earlier this year for Jones's Democratic opponent, Charlie Bailey.

What he's saying: McBurney wrote Willis's involvement in Bailey's campaign has created "a 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."

Of note: McBurney did, however, deny the request by eleven other of the electors to avoid their own subpoenaed testimony.

What's next: The state's Prosecuting Attorneys Council will appoint a new prosecutor to investigate Jones directly, question him and decide whether any case against him can be brought.

  • In a statement, the council's director Peter Skandalakis said he is "reviewing the Court's decision and researching case law." Because no criminal indictment has been issued, he said, "it may be premature to appoint a criminal prosecutor at this time."

The other side: Bailey, in a statement said Jones is “desperately trying to distract from his leading role in the attempted overthrow of the United States Government."

Editor's note: This post was updated with comment from Peter Skandalakis.

Go deeper