Atlanta, GA – Controversial long-time Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard was defeated soundly in a primary runoff on Tuesday by challenger Fani Willis.
Willis, a former prosecutor who made Howard’s conduct in office a major issue during her campaign, swept in the Aug. 11 runoff, taking 73 percent of the vote, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Howard had recently been accused of using the chaos surrounding the officer-involved shooting death of Rayshard Brooks to distract from the criminal investigation into his own activities.
Willis called it a purely political move when Howard charged former Atlanta Police Officer Garrett Rolfe with Brooks’ murder.
“You indict police really quick when it’s good for you, but when it’s not good for you, you wait for the news to die down. Why don’t you just do what’s right when it’s right?” she said after the charges against Rolfe and Atlanta Police Officer Devin Brosnan were announced, according to WSB.
International Brotherhood of Police Southeast Regional Director Vince Champion told The Police Tribune at the time that he thought Howard charged Rolfe with Brook’s murder to help garner votes.
“Paul Howard is up for reelection – he’s been here for many years so he should be good to go. But out of three in a runoff, he was second in votes. So he’s worried. He wants to get to the rioters for votes. He’s trying to show that he’s hard on crime by going after the officers – he’s trying to live off of prosecuting bad cops,” Champion said.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) in July launched an investigation into Howard’s handling of the Brooks case, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The GBI investigation is a probe into whether the district attorney’s office could have legally issued the grand jury subpoenas he used to get information about former Officer Rolfe and was initiated at the requested of Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr.
Howard, who was elected in 1997, placed second behind Willis in his worst primary election showing ever in June.
“What you will overwhelmingly see is that the people of Fulton County, Georgia, they desperately want a change,” Willis said after the primary votes were counted.
She told WSB she planned to spend the two months leading up to the Aug. 11 runoff reminding Fulton County voters that Howard, the county’s top law enforcement official, was under investigation himself for multiple alleged crimes.
“He does what is best for him, and what the district attorney should do is what’s for the people. We see that in you stealing $195,000 from black and brown children,” Willis said.
On Aug. 6, Howard admitted to 14 violations of state ethics laws and agreed to pay a $6,500 fine, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
He was fined for failing to disclose that he was CEO of two non-profits, one of which was awarded $195,000 that went straight into the district attorney’s pocket.
Howard complained after the fact about critics who had equated the ethics charges with criminal conduct, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
“Their arguments have been false, as they were well aware, and were made only to gain political advantage,” he said. ” … The action filed by the commission has always been administrative and today they have delivered a death blow to those who raised false messages by disposing of the complaint, merely assessing an administrative penalty.”
Howard is still facing a number of investigations in both the criminal and ethical realms.
Cathy Carter, a 15-year employee of Howard’s, has accused the district attorney of “overt, manipulative and aggressive sexual misconduct and harassment,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Carter’s lawsuit claimed she gave in to Howard’s requests and had random sexual encounters with her boss from 2004 through June of 2019 when she ended the sexual aspect of their relationship.
The lawsuit alleged that the district attorney fired her when she cut off the sex, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Howard’s attorney claims Carter was terminated because she had been arrested for assault while carrying a gun in Clayton County.
However, that wasn’t the first time Howard was accused of sexual harassment by an employee, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported.
The Georgia Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission has also accused the Fulton County DA of 12 public disclosure violations.
That investigation was launched after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on discrepancies between Howard’s personal financial disclosures and his tax filings for a non-profit that he runs called People Partnering for Progress.
Howard has claimed the investigation is a political stunt timed to derail his re-election bid.
He said that he expected to be exonerated and called the criminal investigation an “administrative matter,” WSB reported.
“I have every confidence at the end of that investigation that I will be totally exonerated because I know I’ve done nothing wrong,” Howard told WSB.