Influential Trump lawyer’s work on Georgia grand jury probe says ‘absolutely serious’

As in Georgia grand jury investigates Donald Trump for his conduct after losing the 2020 election, the former president’s team has turned to one of the most respected and influential attorneys in Atlanta.

Dwight Thomas has represented many of the region’s most prominent defendants in difficult and sensitive cases for more than four decades. That he consulted for the Trump team may be a sign that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ investigation is being taken very seriously, according to former prosecutor Clinton Rucker, who spent more than 25 years working on important cases for this office.

“If you hired Dwight Thomas, you’re serious,” said Rucker, who is now a municipal court judge. “You absolutely believe you have some exposure and you want to make sure you have somebody skilled enough to not only examine the issues, but you want somebody who can ultimately come in and fight and win.”

Attorney Dwight Thomas speaks to reporters in a 2007 file photo

Attorney Dwight Thomas, center, speaks with reporters along with two colleagues outside the federal courthouse in Atlanta after a bail hearing for his client, rapper T.I., on October 19, 2007.

John Amis / AP

A spokesman for Willis’ office confirmed that Willis had spoken with Thomas about the case and that the prosecutor would only discuss the case with the attorneys involved in it. Yahoo News first reported that Willis and Thomas spoke. Thomas declined in an email to discuss his involvement, citing grand jury secrecy rules. A source with knowledge of Thomas’ involvement describes his work as “consulting” on special grand juries and the laws that govern them.

Representatives and attorneys for Trump did not return requests for comment. Trump has denied all allegations of wrongdoing regarding his conduct after the 2020 election.

The special grand jury has subpoenaed dozens of Trump allies and supporters in recent months. He has it too heard testimony of state officials involved in a infamous phone call on January 2, 2021 in which the then-president told Georgia election officials, “I just want to find 11,780 votes,” the number needed to erase Biden’s lead.

Few defense attorneys have as much experience as Thomas with special grand juries, Rucker said. Special grand juries are unique in that they focus on a single investigation and can last longer than typical grand juries. Willis wrote when asked the special grand jury in January that will have “an investigative focus appropriate to the complexity of the facts and circumstances involved.”

Thomas’ current and past clients include a host of celebrities and politicians. He represented rapper TI in a gun case, and is currently listed as the lawyer for Alfred Megbuluba, a 32-year-old man charged with manslaughter for allegedly pushing a woman out of a moving Lamborghini. Another lawyer in the case told local media that Megbuluba will plead not guilty. Thomas recently defended Jason Lary, a suburban Atlanta mayor who pleaded guilty to fraud charges stemming from a scheme to steal more than $900,000 in COVID-19 relief funding.

Closer to home for Trump, Thomas represented Vernon Jones, then a local Democratic politician, in multiple matters. Jones gained national attention when she endorsed Trump for re-election in 2020. Jones later changed her party affiliation to Republican.

Campaign finance records show Thomas has given mostly to Democrats, including $2,000 in 2021 to Senator Raphael Warnock, who faces a tough re-election campaign against Trump-endorsed challenger Herschel Walker. But Georgia attorney Jason Sheffield said it’s no surprise that Thomas would take on a prominent Republican client.

“He checks any partisan point of view at the courthouse door. And he’s extremely diligent. A careful, fair, great negotiator. Deep, but I think above all, just an advocate for the fair application of the law.” said Sheffield, an adjunct professor at Emory University School of Law who previously worked in Thomas’s office.

Sheffield said he called Thomas for advice recently before taking on a controversial and high-profile client. Travis McMichael was one three men convicted of murder in the racist murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old black man who was jogging when he was chased by three whites in pickup trucks and shot dead.

“Before I took the case I called Dwight and said, ‘What do you think about this?’ It’s a very troubling case and people are angry about it.” He said, “If you can’t take this case, you can’t take any case,” Sheffield said.

Sheffield said the advice conforms to a mantra of sorts. Thomas urges the lawyers he mentors to remember, “If you can’t do it for one, you can’t do it for none.”

That sentiment was echoed by Michael Holmes, another former partner at his firm.

“He was a mentor to me, a father figure and friend, and a phenomenal lawyer,” Holmes said.

Thomas, 71, has mentored countless attorneys, Sheffield and Rucker said, and many of his protégés are current or former Fulton County prosecutors.

“More prosecutors here have learned the practice of criminal law through Dwight’s office than I can count,” Sheffield said.

Rucker remembers learning from Thomas even while opposing him.

“He’ll catch you on technicalities of the law and he’ll do it with a smile. And when it’s all over, he’ll say, ‘Hey, let me take you to lunch,'” Rucker said.

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Graham Kates

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