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Paul Manafort Jury Asks Definition of Reasonable Doubt

Manafort

Virginia jurors were deliberating for the second day when President Donald J. Trump decided to weigh in on the trial. On Aug. 17, 2018, he called the trial of Paul Manafort “very sad” and said that the defendant was a “very good person.”

Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, is on trial for bank and tax fraud. The trial, taking place in Alexandria in federal court, is the first that will come from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. The 15-month investigation concerns the role of Russia in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Manafort has been charged with 18 criminal counts. These charges mostly predate the five months he worked on Trump’s presidential campaign. It was during a pivotal period in the 2016 race for the White House, including his three months as campaign chairman.

Manafort’s charges are as follows:

  • Five counts of filing false tax returns
  • Four counts of failing to disclose personal offshore bank accounts
  • Nine counts of bank fraud<li?>

If he is convicted on all 18 counts, Manafort could spend the rest of his life in prison.

After the jury resumed deliberations on Friday, Judge T.S. Ellis stated in open court, “I think we are optimistic the case might end soon with some sort of verdict.”

The judge made this comment before telling spectators and journalists that “he did not want them running out of the courtroom while the jury announces its verdict on the various counts,” according to AOL.

On Thursday, the jury sent out a note with four questions for Ellis including one that asked him to define “reasonable doubt.” According to AOL, in a criminal case, a jury must find the defendant guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

Jury consultant Alexandra Rudolph stated, “The fact that they are sending questions on reasonable doubt tells me that the jury is divided. There is at least one juror who has not decided the case and who is not convinced.”

The general rule is that juries tend to reach their verdict on a Friday to avoid having to return after the weekend. However, Rudolph believes it is likely these deliberations will carry over into next week.

The jurors also asked the judge when a person is supposed to disclose an account to a foreign bank to the Treasury Department, the definition of a “shelf company,” – which is “an inactive company often sold to people aiming to bypass the registration process” – and about the exhibit list.

Manafort has been accused by prosecutors of hiding $16 million from U.S. tax authorities. This is money he earned as a political consultant for pro-Russian politicians in the Ukraine to fund a certain lifestyle. He is also accused of lying to banks in order to secure $20 million in loans after his Ukrainian income was gone and he needed money.

According to Ellis, he received a motion Thursday night from a group of new organizations requesting the judge unseal specific parts of the proceedings that had been kept from the public. The judge stated that he would allow lawyers for the media outlets to argue the motion on Friday afternoon.

The judge has announced that he has received threats about the case. He is currently traveling with protection from the U.S. Marshal Service.
Ellis said he has no plans to release the names and addresses of the 12 people deliberating on the trial because he is worried about their “peace and safety.”

“I had no idea this case would excite these emotions, I can tell you that frankly. I don’t feel right if I release their names. I have no reason to believe that if those names are unsealed there won’t be threats against them.”

Media outlets have filed a motion asking the judge to release the names and addresses of the jurors, and discussions Ellis had with prosecutors and defense lawyers out of the earshot of others in the court during the Manafort trial.

Ellis refuses to release the transcript of a sidebar conference that relates to an ongoing investigation. However, he said that after the trial is over, he will unseal the transcripts that relate to the administration of the jury.

Jurors have sent a note to the judge requesting they be able to end deliberations at 5 p.m. because on of the jurors has a social engagement. Ellis will reconvene court at 4:50 p.m. to determine what time they will resume deliberations on Monday.

By Jeanette Smith

Sources:

CNBC: Judge in Paul Manafort trial says he has been threatened and is now under US Marshal protection
AOL News: Trump defends ex-aide Manafort as jury considers verdict

Image Courtesy of Victoria Pickering’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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