It appears that something may be awry in the ex-Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort case. It seems that Robert Mueller’s team of “expert” prosecutors have been chastised numerous times by Judge T.S. Ellis, who is the Reagan appointed federal judge presiding over the trial.
How “incompetent” were Mueller’s prosecutors in court recently?
In Manafort’s case, prosecutors assigned to the trial must prove to the jury that Manafort committed “fraud.”
Prosecutors wanted to introduce an array of exhibits and indicated their intent to call several witnesses in order to prove that Manafort failed to report money spent on luxury items then lied to get bank loans when his foreign consulting work dried up.
On a side note, aren’t you glad we have a special prosecutor for something that appears to be what the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) might generally pursue if they felt the U.S. government was being defrauded? #sarcasm
From the beginning, it apparently prosecutors wanted to show the jurors that Manafort had a lavish lifestyle which afforded him nice clothing and the ability to spend a lot of money, but failed to connect the spending with fraud.
Ellis wasn’t having any of it.
The rebukes from Ellis began early.
During the prosecutors’ opening statement, Ellis reminded jurors that wealth alone is not a crime and called out the prosecutor in front of the jury for saying that the “evidence will show” Manafort’s guilt.
Prosecutors wanted to introduce an array of exhibits and indicated their intent to call several witnesses to prove that Manafort failed to report money spent on luxury items then lied to get bank loans when his foreign consulting work dried up.
(Aren’t you glad we have a special prosecutor for something that appears to be what the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) might generally pursue if they felt the U.S. government was being defrauded? #sarcasm)
It was reported that Ellis “sent jurors out of the courtroom several times as he reminded prosecutors that Manafort is not on trial for simply having a “lavish lifestyle.”
Ellis again intervened when prosecutors attempted to introduce photos of Manafort’s closets filled with suits and other pricey articles of clothing.
Ellis contended that the photos would only be used by the media and ruled that the photos were unnecessary for jurors to see.
Ellis further told prosecutors:
“Enough is enough. We don’t convict people because they have a lot of money and throw it around.”
If simply having a lavish lifestyle makes you “guilty” of a crime then most of the Kardashians and all of Hollywood would be locked up.
In addition, Ellis dismissed an exhibit related to Manafort’s opulent spending.
Ellis commented on the exhibit, saying:
“All this document shows is that Mr. Manafort had a lavish lifestyle. It isn’t relevant.”
Ellis then told jurors:
“It isn’t a crime to have a lot of money and be profligate in your spending.”
Take it from someone who used to practice law. If the judge is calling you out, sending jurors out of the courtroom several times to rebuke you and advises jurors to disregard what you just said, then you are in doing something wrong as an attorney.
Typically it’s a sign that 1) You don’t know what you are doing; 2) You don’t have a real case but you are hoping something sticks or 3) all of the above.
Did Ellis properly exclude evidence from the jury?
The standard a judge uses to exclude evidence from jurors is based on whether the information is “relevant or if there is a high risk of prejudicing jurors.”
Obviously, Ellis believed lavish spending does not equal fraud and decided not to allow the jury to see any evidence of it.
Nor will Ellis permit a jury to be swayed by seeing evidence of a closet filled with high-priced clothes.
Ellis clearly felt prosecutors were trying to prejudice the jury in other ways when he “warned” prosecutors to stop using the word “oligarch” to describe the wealthy Ukrainians that allegedly were the focus of the fraud charges against Manafort.
Ellis ruled that the term “oligarch” is a “perjorative” term that would risk unfairly prejudicing jurors against Manafort.
Did prosecutors intentionally make these “errors”?
These types of “mistakes” by prosecutors are at best rookie mistakes or at worst, attempts to intentionally harm Manafort in the eyes of the jurors.
Either way, Ellis may not be too happy with Mueller’s team.
Prosecutors were allowed to introduce some evidence of spending.
Prosecutors were allowed to show that Manafort spent a lot of money on clothing during a three year period.
However, a witness for the prosecution testified that other customers spent similar amounts of money and also used wire transfers like Manafort when paying for clothing.
Also, a contractor who was hired to work on Manafort’s properties testified that the $3.3 million Manafort paid him over a four year period came from international wire transfers.
The parties also stipulated that a $1.9 million wire transfer from a Cyprus bank was used to pay for Manfort’s daughter’s home in Virginia.
Additionally, jurors heard Tuesday that Manafort bought an ostrich jacket worth more than $15,000.
This revelation triggered the president of PETA to demand that Manafort turn over the jacket to her organization because it was most likely made from juvenile ostriches whose throats were slit and whose feathers were plucked out.”
Wow! The court of public opinion even got in on the trial. What’s next?
Prosecutors surprised everyone on Wednesday with their announcement.
Finally, what came as a surprise or perhaps not based on how prosecutors were reportedly performing in court on Wednesday, was the statement by prosecutors that their “star witness” Rick Gates, Manafort’s former business partner may not be testifying against Manafort after all.
That’s interesting and could imply that Gates’s testimony doesn’t help prosecutors but helps Manafort’s case instead.
However, it’s too early to draw a clear conclusion at this point.
So what can we expect next?
Anything can happen in the continuing saga of an “all things Russia witch hunt.”
However, as Ellis said during a preliminary hearing in May about Mueller’s team, they “don’t care” about Manafort and are pursuing the case against Manafort only as a means of targeting the president.
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