Manafort trial judge seeks government response to venue change, delay requests

Glen Norman
July 14, 2018

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III said Tuesday that Manafort would be relocated to a jail in Alexandria, Virginia, where he is scheduled for trial later this month.

A three-judge U.S. Court of Appeals panel in Washington on Thursday denied the former Trump campaign chairman's bid for freedom, saying he'd not shown them that his request should be granted before they rule on his underlying challenge. Still, when Alexandria federal judge T.S. Ellis III ordered him transferred to a facility closer to the courthouse, the former global political consultant rebelled, arguing he was better off staying put.

Prosecutors said in a court filing Wednesday that Manafort has told people he is being treated like a "VIP" in the Northern Neck lockup, where he has his own phone and computer, writes emails and does not have to wear a uniform.

Manafort, who was assigned an extra-large cell in his current jail, also has access to a separate workroom to meet with his attorneys from 8:30 10:00 p.m. Visitor logs from the jail show that each week Manafort had multiple visits with his legal team, according to Mueller's filing.

Manafort lawyer Jay Nanavati responded with his own court filing late Wednesday. Prosecutors then said his living situation in the rural Virginia jail was more indulgent than what's given to other inmates.

He also has a personal laptop, they say, with an extension cord so he can use it in his unit and not just the workroom.

According to the prosecution's filing, Manafort had enjoyed numerous "unique privileges" at the Virginia facility including access to his personal laptop and telephone.

Paul Manafort's complaints about his life in jail backfired spectacularly Wednesday. The "Defendant's access to counsel and his ability to prepare for trial trumps his personal comfort", noted Ellis. His trial in Alexandria is set for July 25.

Prosecutors working for the special counsel in the Russian Federation inquiry, Robert Mueller, suggested to Ellis this week that Manafort was trying to delay the Virginia case so that he would face the charges in Washington first.

"Manafort has revealed on the monitored phone calls that in order to exchange emails, he reads and composes emails on a second laptop that is shuttled in and out of the facility by his team", the US said.

Prosecutors with the special counsel asked the judge to jail Manafort after learning that he had attempted to contact potential government witnesses in the days after Mueller brought a superseding indictment against him. When his lawyers leave the facility, they reconnect it to the internet and Manafort's emails are sent. Besides the charges of financial fraud in Virginia, he faces charges in Washington, including violating federal lobbying laws. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Manafort is charged with conspiracy, money laundering, bank fraud, tax crimes, making false statements and acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign principal.

"Manafort can hardly now complain about the order of the trials", the special counsel's attorneys said.

Prosecutors said most of the documents handed over recently are from Manafort's own bookkeeping service and are not unfamiliar to him.

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