Judge in Manafort Trial Received Threats, Fears for Jurors
The federal judge in former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s fraud trial refused Friday to release the names of jurors, saying he has received threats and fears for their safety as well.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III revealed his concerns in explaining why he does not intend to make jurors’ names public at the end of the trial, now in the 2nd day of jury deliberations.
A coalition of media organizations, have filed a motion requesting the names of jurors, as well as access to sealed transcripts of bench conferences that have occurred during the three-week trial.
Jury lists are presumed to be public unless a judge articulates a reason for keeping them secret.
Judge Eliis said during a hearing Friday afternoon he is concerned for the “peace and safety of the jurors.”
“I’ve received criticism and threats,” Judge Ellis said. “I imagine they would, too.”
The judge said he is currently under the protection of US marshals. He declined to delve into specifics, but said he’s been taken aback by the level of interest in the trial.
Also Friday, President Donald Trump issued a fresh defense of Mr. Manafort, calling him a “very good person.”
“I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad,” Trump told reporters at the White House.
“When you look at what’s going on, I think it’s a very sad day for our country,” he said. “He worked for me for a very short period of time. But you know what, he happens to be a very good person and I think it’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort.”
The financial fraud trial is the first courtroom test of the ongoing Russia probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller.
The jury ended its 1st day of deliberations with a series of questions to the judge, including a request to “redefine” reasonable doubt.
The questions came after roughly 7 hours of deliberation, delivered in a note to Judge Ellis.
Along with the question on reasonable doubt, the jury asked about the list of exhibits, rules for reporting foreign bank accounts and the definition of “shelf companies,” a term used during the trial to describe some of the foreign companies used by Manafort.
Judge Ellis told the jurors they need to rely on their collective memory of the evidence to answer most questions. As for reasonable doubt, he described it as “a doubt based on reason” and told jurors it does not require proof “beyond all doubt.”
Mr. Manafort’s defense countered that he was not culpable because he left the particulars of his finances to others.
Mr. Manafort’s attorneys told jurors to question the entirety of the prosecution’s case as they sought to tarnish the credibility of Manafort’s longtime assistant and government witness Rick Gates.
The jury is still out and asked the judge to let them out early.