Manafort trial delayed; he wants Ukraine work kept from jury
By Rachel Weiner and Justin Jouvenal
A federal judge in Alexandria has delayed the trial of Paul Manafort on bank and tax fraud charges until July 31.
Manafort, who appeared in court Monday for the first time since his June incarceration, had hoped the trial would be postponed until after he faces related charges in Washington, D.C. federal court on Sept. 17.
Judge T.S. Ellis III was not so accommodating, but he did give Manafortâs defense an extra week to review tens of thousands of documents recently turned over by prosecutors.
âThere are equities and good reasons on both sides,â he said.
The trial, previously set to begin Wednesday, will be the first prosecuted by the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Manafort, who appeared in a rumpled green jumpsuit and wire-rim glasses, had waived other recent in-person court appearances because he had been held at a jail two hours from the Alexandria courthouse. But Manafort is now in Alexandriaâs city jail, just a few blocks from the court.
He was moved after his lawyers said they were unable to prepare with their client 100 miles away at a jail in the Northern Neck. But defense attorney Kevin Downing said Monday that his team is still struggling with the large volume of paperwork involved.
Prosecutors said the most relevant papers handed over recently were financial documents from Manafortâs bookkeeper that his attorneys turned over to the government themselves last summer.
Manafort had a different defense team at the time. Downing said once the bookkeepe r was subpoenaed by prosecutors, the firm demanded money to give them back to Manafort.
âWe thought that we would get it through discovery. Itâs a lot cheaper,â Downing said.
âIt depends on how you calculate the expense,â Ellis replied.
Downing said the defense also only recently received 40,000 pages of documents from the phones and computer of Richard Gates, Manafortâs ex-business partner. Gates has pleaded guilty to two charges in Washington, D.C. federal court and is set to testify against Manafort.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye said most of those documents involve pictures downloaded when Gates visited websites and would not be part of the prosecutionâs case. None are emails.
âI donât think, to my knowledge, there are any exculpatory pictures in this case,â he said.
Downing said some of the downloaded data could be relevant notes Gates wrote to himself: âItâs incumbent on us to review these documents,â he said.
Ellis also approved and unsealed motions to compel five witnesses against Manafort to testify at trial: James Brennan, Conor OâBrien, Donna Duggan, Cindy Laporta, Dennis Raico.
Ellis delayed a hearing on motions to shape the evidence at trial until later Monday afternoon.
The defense is asking Ellis to keep from jurors details of the work Manafort did for Ukrainian politician Viktor Yanukovych, who was forced out of power by protests against corruption and fraud. Manafort is accused of using offshore bank accounts to hide millions of dollars he made working for Yanukovych and his political party.
In federal court in the District, Manafort is accused of failing to register as a foreign agent. But in the financial-crimes case in Alexandria, his attorneys argue, there is no need to delve into the source of Manafortâs funds.
âThe fact that Mr. Manafort performed foreign consulting work, and that he was paid for that work, is not in dispute, â defense attorneys wrote. âEvidence concerning Mr. Yanukovych, the Party of Regions, and the work that Mr. Manafort performed on their behalf poses the substantial risk that the jurors will be sidetracked by Mr. Yanukovychâs controversial tenure as Ukraineâs president, his removal from power in the midst of public protests, the charges of treason brought against him by the Ukrainian government, and his current exile in Russia.â
The special counsel pushed back, writing in a Sunday filing that the work Manafort did in Ukraine is relevant to both the tax and bank fraud charges.
âEvidence of Manafortâs significant work for Ukraine is necessary to establish the source of Manafortâs money and quantify the corresponding amount of income earned,â Asonye wrote. âFurther, Yanukovychâs loss of power in 2014 is highly relevant to explain the dramatic decrease in Manafortâs income in and after 2014 â" which led to the defendantâs involvement in the charg ed bank frauds.â
Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III last week released a list of nearly 500 pieces of evidence that prosecutors may show to a jury, including emails and memos discussing strategy with and for Yanukovych.
The two sides will on Tuesday debate a questionnaire that will be given to potential jurors.
Manafort would like Ellis, the judge, to ask jurors where they get their news, the extent of their involvement in politics and whether they voted in the 2016 election. The government is interested in whether jurors have strong feelings about the Internal Revenue Service and tax laws, Mueller and Manafort himself.Source: Google News Ukraine | Netizen 24 Ukraine