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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Manafort jury goes into third day of deliberations

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort is shown in this booking photo in Alexandria, Virginia, (Alexandria Sheriff’s Office/Handout)

The jury in the trial of Paul Manafort will deliberate for a third day on Monday about whether to convict the former Trump campaign chairman of up to 18 criminal charges related to bank and tax fraud and his failure to disclose overseas bank accounts.

The 12 jurors concluded their discussions on Friday without sending any notes to the judge other than saying when they would go home, one day after they asked for a definition of “reasonable doubt” and clarification on the law governing the reporting of foreign bank accounts.

Shanlon Wu, who represented Manafort’s former protege Rick Gates before he pleaded guilty in February and cooperated with the prosecution, said the lack of questions on Friday might bode better for the prosecution than the defense.

“The fact that they were quiet on Friday indicated that they were working hard and working well together, and there was no dissension,” said Wu, who is no longer involved in the case and said he was speaking from knowledge of the publicly available evidence. “I think that’s a good sign for the prosecution.”

Wu said he still saw a chance of acquittals on the four counts of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts, citing the jury’s technical question on Thursday about the ownership and control threshold requirements for such disclosures.

The jury is scheduled to resume deliberations at 9:30 a.m. Monday at the federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. The trial is the first stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

Before dismissing them on Friday, Judge T.S. Ellis reminded the jurors, who are not sequestered, to refrain from discussing the case or investigating it on their own over the weekend. “Put it out of your mind until Monday,” Ellis told them.

However, some legal experts expressed concern that comments by Trump on Friday calling the trial of Manafort “very sad” and lauding him as a “very good person” might still be viewed – inadvertently or otherwise – by jurors over the weekend.

Another headline on Friday that might grab the attention of jurors: Ellis disclosing that he personally had received threats related to the trial and was being protected by U.S. marshals. The jury was not present when he made those remarks.

“In a high profile case, the general assumption is that some outside information may accidentally reach a jury, despite jurors’ best efforts to avoid relevant news,” said jury consultant Roy Futterman.

“Given the judge’s statement, the jurors may reasonably assume that they may be at some risk which may change the tenor of their deliberations, perhaps raising tensions or speeding things up.”

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