After Fourteen Days, All Eyes Are On The Jury In The Manafort Trial

The Virginia case against Paul Manafort went to the jury on Thursday, and now everyone waits for their verdict.

I haven’t written much about the proceedings in this trial, but with the trial hitting its 14th day yesterday and the jury ending its second day of deliberations, it seems like as good a time as any to take a look at the case and where the two sides stand. The case which being tried right now, of course, is the one pending in the Eastern District of Virginia in which Manafort faces eighteen separate counts of bank and tax fraud related to his efforts to hide income earned from his lobbying for overseas clients such as the former pro-Russian government in Ukraine, Turkey, and other foreign actors. Based on the reports I’ve read in the media, though, it seems fairly clear that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team has done a very good job of presenting a very strong case against Manafort, a case that is very document-intensive and which seems to leave little room for doubt about the fact that Manafort engaged in a scheme that lasted for years that was designed to hide his income and to misrepresent his assets to financial institutions that continued even in the time he was working for the Trump campaign and his financial house of cards was collapsing around him.

The star of the prosecution’s case, of course, was Richard Gates, who was a longtime aide to Manafort, worked together with him on the Trump campaign, and was also closely involved with Manafort’s financial schemes. Gates, of course, has already pled guilty and is cooperating with Mueller and his investigators not only on the cases against Manafort but also the broader Russia investigation. In no small part because of his guilty plea, Manafort’s attorneys spent a considerable amount of time attempting to undercut Gates’s credibility, including by bringing up the fact that he had had several extramarital affairs during the time he worked with Manafort. Whether any of this was successful in terms of tarnishing Gates’s image in front of the jury, or of causing them to doubt his testimony regarding Manafort’s financial dealings To a large degree, though, it seems apparent that Gates’s testimony was thoroughly corroborated by the treasure trove of documents that the prosecution put into evidence both through Gates and through other witnesses.

In any case, while the prosecution put up what seems from a distance like a fairly strong case, the defense chose not to present any evidence or call any witnesses. While certainly risky, this isn’t an uncommon defense tactic since it allows defense counsel to concentrate the jury’s attention on the question of whether or not the prosecution has proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt. This is essentially the argument that Manafort’s attorneys made in their closing argument, while the prosecution concentrated on focusing the jury’s attention on the facts of the case as presented in the testimony and documents which show that Manafort was hiding assets overseas, lying on financial documents, and directing Gates to doctor financial disclosures as part of a financial scheme that lasted for years. The jury has been deliberating since Thursday, but ended the day yesterday without a verdict and will return Monday morning.

As things stand, I am not willing to guess which way the jury may end up ruling. Both in my own personal experience and in the many high-profile jury trials that we’ve seen in recent years I have seen far too many examples of cases where speculation that a particular jury is headed in one direction or another ends up being completely wrong. I also don’t believe that the length of jury deliberations tells us much of anything about which way they might be leaning. In some cases, of course, lengthy deliberations could mean that a jury is deadlocked on a verdict, which would certainly be good news for Manafort and a setback for Mueller and his team. At the same time, though, the length of deliberations could simply mean that the jury is carefully going through each count, reviewing the evidence, and reaching a decision. As I’ve noted above, the press coverage certainly does make it seem like the prosecution has presented a fairly strong case that leaves little room for doubt about Manafort’s guilt. If that’s the case, then the more time the jury spends reviewing the evidence the more likely it becomes that they will convict him. In any case, we won’t know for sure what the outcome will be until the jury comes back, and that’s not going to happen until Monday at the earliest when the jury resumes deliberation.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Law and the Courts, Politicians, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    It won’t be an acquittal, it might be a hung jury if they’ve got a Cultie on the panel.

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  2. Mister Bluster says:

    The defense rests your honor.

    That’s what the Public Defender said when the Judge stated it was time for him to present a defense for his client.
    Took me by surprise.
    I was sitting on the jury and had just heard the prosecution make it’s case that the defendant was a convicted felon illegally possessing a firearm.
    When we got into the Jury Room we actually spent some time deliberating but since there was no defense offered there was not much to do but convict on the facts of the case.
    Never did find out why the case went to trial in the first place.
    The kid should have copped a plea.

    I guess we will find out if Manafort should have done the same.

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  3. steve says:

    No way they convict. All it takes is one Trump supporter on the jury. No amount of evidence will overcome what they have heard on Fox.

    Steve

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  4. Gustopher says:

    In some cases, of course, lengthy deliberations could mean that a jury is deadlocked on a verdict, which would certainly be good news for Manafort and a setback for Mueller and his team. At the same time, though, the length of deliberations could simply mean that the jury is carefully going through each count, reviewing the evidence, and reaching a decision.

    From my limited understanding of the court proceedings, the judge did not allow the prosecution to present many of the documents, merely to enter them into evidence with minimal explanation. So, there should be a lot of reading to do.

    And, when the jury asked for guidance on which evidence went for which charges, the judge didn’t give them any (not sure if that is normal or not).

    So, I expect it to take a long time for the jury to reach a verdict on all counts, one way or the other. Anything else, and they aren’t doing their jobs.

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  5. CSK says:
  6. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Trump has already tampered with the jury. He has said, publicly, that the trial is “very sad.”

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  7. Guarneri says:

    I haven’t followed it very closely at all, but a key seems to have been recharacterizing income as loans, later forgiven. That sounds like fraud to me, and yet its very odd. Loan forgiveness is income as well. At best this would simply move the tax liability later in time. Not much of a benefit for the risk. Strange.

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  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Guarneri:
    It’s only strange if he were dealing with a legitimate lender who would report any such loan and forgiveness. If Manafort’s borrowing from the Russian Mob the only reporting is being done on his end. They give him money to clean, he calls it a loan so he doesn’t have to show it as income and the ‘debt’ remains, neither forgiven nor really a loan.

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  9. Mister Bluster says:

    The defense didn’t put on a defense because it didn’t have one.

    That’s what we figured in the jury room.
    However when I heard the defense lawyer say “The defense rests your Honor.” It made the presumption of innocence mandate more challenging to abide by.

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  10. Kathy says:

    Making predictions is hard, especially about the future. Nevertheless:

    1) If Manafort’s found guilty, El Cheeto and his followers will claim he wasn’t allowed to present a defense.

    2) If he’s found not guilty, they’ll claim double jeopardy when the next trial on different charges begins.

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  11. gVOR08 says:

    @Michael Reynolds: That’s my worry. The trial is being held in Alexandria, which went overwhelmingly for Clinton. Let’s dig out the back of an envelope and instead of the famous 27%, let’s assume 10% of the pool are Trumpskyites. That makes it 3:1 odds there’s at least one in a random group of twelve people.

    In closing the Defense argued Manafort wouldn’t have been found out if not for the Muelleer investigation. Legally, this has nothing to do with anything, and I understand the Judge had ruled they could not make that argument. But they did, and apparently neither he nor the Prosecution objected. I don’t think they’re going for reasonable doubt. I think they’re going for jury nullification.

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  12. MBunge says:

    @Michael Reynolds: If Manafort’s borrowing from the Russian Mob the only reporting is being done on his end.

    Dude, that horse isn’t just dead. It’s fossilized.

    As for predictions, who knows? This, however…

    As I’ve noted above, the press coverage certainly does make it seem like the prosecution has presented a fairly strong case that leaves little room for doubt about Manafort’s guilt.

    …reminds me of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case where after years of coverage and hundreds or thousands of stories, neither you nor I had heard much about plain evidence of bias on the part of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission until the Supreme Court specifically based its ruling on that evidence. Or to put it another way, how many of you going in knew the Manafort prosecution was going to rest as heavily as it did on the testimony of one man and that one man was going to turn out to be a lying piece of white-collar-crime trash?

    Mike

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  13. Mister Bluster says:

    …how many of you going in knew the Manafort prosecution was going to rest as heavily as it did on the testimony of one man and that one man was going to turn out to be a lying piece of white-collar-crime trash?

    You would like that wouldn’t you.
    Even if your assessment of Gates is accurate, the prosecution offered up 26 other witnesses which I am going to have to assume told “the truth and nothing but the truth” as they were sworn to do.
    Since you were not on the jury you have no way of knowing how much weight jurors will put on any witness testimony.

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  14. steve says:

    I think it has become the right wing narrative that all of ht evidence came from Gates, and Gates is tainted. (A big change from earlier when it was claimed Gates was innocent of everything and “not important”.) People on the right want us all to forget that Mnafort’s accountants were testifying against him also. One of them also was granted immunity for turning in tax stuff they knew was fake.

    https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/03/politics/paul-manafort-trial-day-four/index.html

    Steve

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  15. Lava Land says:

    Could not care less, the whole point was to GET TRUMP so have at it. Teflon Don

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  16. Mister Bluster says:

    Teflon Don

    Slicker than goose sh!t. You should be proud.

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  17. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @gVOR08: Nullification I can’t see from the odds of one Trump supporter on the jury. Hung jury? Absolutely. Then the question–do they prosecute again and let Trump tweet about a jury not convicting him being ignored and “witch hunt” for another 6-12 months?

    Yeah, I get that he’ll do it anyway, but a retrial gives another line of attack.

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  18. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @steve: See? Bunge’s point exactly. Everybody who testified against Manafort was a ruthless lying criminal who’s rolling over on poor, hanging in the wind Manafort to escape prosecution. How can we take this show trial seriously? He ought to not only be released, but also indemnified for the false arrest!

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  19. Grewgills says:

    @Lava Land:
    I appreciate your tacit admission that Trump is mobbed up, but Gotti was much smarter.

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  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Lava Land: Funny that you keep referring to the Teflon Don, who died in prison.

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  21. Guarneri says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    if its the mob then why go through the income to loan conversion scheme. Its all unreported. All the recharacterization does is create more paper and players/paper trail.

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  22. rachel says:

    @Lava Land: Anybody who cooks knows that Teflon only works until use wears it out. After that, everything sticks.

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  23. Michael Reynolds says:

    @MBunge:
    Dude, this isn’t even Manafort’s main trial. This is the warm-up to the bigger charges. Wait, little Cultie, just wait.

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  24. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Guarneri:
    Because it’s not all unreported, Manafort reports his income to the IRS. Right? Because he needs some way to explain his ostrich jackets and various houses, so he has to show income. He’s a US citizen passing himself off as legit. He has accounts in banks like Bank of Cyprus which are corrupt-ish but not so corrupt they won’t ask you any questions at all.

    Manafort’s money source – the Russian mob – have no such need to report or explain their income. They sell drugs, run hookers, and leech off the Russian economy, all under Putin’s watchful eye. But only under his watchful eye, there are no regulators and the Russian police are thoroughly corrupt.

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  25. mattbernius says:

    @MBunge:

    Or to put it another way, how many of you going in knew the Manafort prosecution was going to rest as heavily as it did on the testimony of one man and that one man was going to turn out to be a lying piece of white-collar-crime trash?

    Ignoring the other witnesses, who backed up the majority of Gates’ testimony, it is clear that the defense is mounting the Casablanca strategy (Renault, explaining why he’s shutting Rick down: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here! [Croupier hands Renault his recent winnings]”).

    At best, this paints Manafort as a buffoon who missed the fact that his right-hand man was stealing from him for years. Of course, that buffoonery also translates to the Trump campaign, who made extensive use of Gates as well.

    And, should the jury find that Manafort was crooked as well… man, it’s just more of Trump bumbling in his way to having a whole bunch of “lying piece[s] of white-collar-crime trash” (your words not mine Mike) as close advisors.

    Oh, wait, “just some guys” who the campaign keep using (and Trump is signalling that he is planning to pardon… just some guys).

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  26. mattbernius says:

    On the strategy of the defense resting without presenting a case, Ken White did a really great run-down of why on twitter:

    Remember it’s the prosecution’s burden to prove things beyond a reasonable doubt. When the defense puts on a case, there’s always a subtle tendency for the jury to start putting a burden on the defense, which you don’t want.

    If your defense case is marginal anyway, resting is a way to convey to the jury a level of confidence that the government has nothing. It’s a way to emphasize that it’s the government’s burden.

    Another subtle problem with putting on a defense case is that it emphasizes when the defendant doesn’t testify. The defendant isn’t required to, the prosecution isn’t allowed to call attention to it, but juries notice.

    Next, one of the toughest things to learn as a trial lawyer is to sit down when you’ve gotten something done as well as it’s going to get done. They may have accomplished on cross-examination everything they reasonably could in a defense case when you’ve already accomplished what you want (showing Gates to be a liar, for example), you need to be careful of trying to pile more on, because things can go wrong and you can lose what you accomplished.

    This is especially true with skeevy/questionable defense witnesses. If you’re unlucky they get up there, give you some marginal testimony, and then the AUSA gets up and joyrides them all over your case for an hour. Skeevy people do badly on cross.

    Plus, the government doesn’t necessarily have to give you impeachment evidence about witnesses they aren’t calling. Do they have something really horrific on your defense witness, and they’re just hoping you’ll call that person? Guess you’ll find out, huh.

    Finally, your defense may just suck. For every good thing your witnesses might say, they might have to admit four bad things on cross. This is not unusual when knowledge or intent are the issues at hand. The defense direct goes “did the defendant ever say he was trying to hide money?” “no” Then the prosecution gets up and takes the witness through the eight skeevy things the defendant did suggesting consciousness of guilt. It winds up emphasizing the government’s case.

    And, let’s bear in mind that we are in a historic, unique situation. Manafort may be counting on a pardon, in which case there’s little upside to a defense.

    But it’s not unusual and one cannot CONFIDENTLY draw any conclusion from it.

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  27. Kathy says:

    @rachel:

    Things also stick to Teflon if you turn the heat up high 🙂

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  28. Guarneri says:

    I understand all that Michael. That’s the easy part. But he created another layer of complexity by going through the loan conversion scheme. And another discoverable trail. He could have just reported a fraction of his income and been done with it. Not that I don’t think he’s a scumbag, but I haven’t seen a credible explanation for that maneuver. There is something else at work here.

    As I said, I haven’t followed this closely at all, as its ancient history and has nothing to do with current events. Maybe its in the court transcripts. But I haven’t seen anyone offer a credible explanation.

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  29. Grewgills says:

    @Guarneri:

    As I said, I haven’t followed this closely at all, as its ancient history…

    It continued through at least 2016. What is your definition of ancient?

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  30. DrDaveT says:

    @gVOR08:

    The trial is being held in Alexandria, which went overwhelmingly for Clinton.

    I don’t think it works that way. Federal court, Eastern District of Virginia… the jury is probably drawn from about 1/3 of Virginia, which includes all of “fake Virginia” (thanks, Sarah Palin) but also a lot of Trump Country. Plus, the beltway parts of Virginia include a shocking number of Trump apologists/advocates/deniers.

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  31. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    If one of the actual lawyers who posts or lurks here can address my question, I’d appreciate it. I was talking about a hung jury to a friend who is a paralegal today and he was saying that it might be difficult to hang a jury in this case because the jury doesn’t have to be unanimous to convict.

    Comments?

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  32. Mister Bluster says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:..the jury doesn’t have to be unanimous to convict.

    Legal Information Institute
    Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure › TITLE VI. TRIAL › Rule 31. Jury Verdict
    Rule 31. Jury Verdict
    (a) Return. The jury must return its verdict to a judge in open court. The verdict must be unanimous.

    Disclaimer: IANAL but my ex wife was in Law school when I met her in a Southern Illinois roadhouse on Christmas Eve.

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  33. @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    It is a good thing your friend is just a paralegal and not a practicing attorney.

    In order to convict or acquit, the jury must be unanimous.

    Anything short of unanimity is a hung jury and results in a mistrial.

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  34. @DrDaveT:

    The jury is drawn specifically from the Alexandria Division of the Eastern District which includes all of the areas close to D.C. such as Arlington County, the City of Alexandria, Fairfax County, Prince William County, and Loudoun County. These are counties that Hillary won in 2016. It also includes Fauquier County (which Trump won) and Stafford County (which Trump also won). The populations of the last two counties are substantially smaller than the others, FWIW.

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  35. Tyrell says:

    “All eyes” – I seriously question that. I would say the average person has never heard of Manafort.

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  36. Mister Bluster says:

    I would say the average person has never heard of Manafort.

    You may go out of your way to remain uninformed but don’t project your behavior on your fellow Citizens.

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