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Gates still set to testify; judge doesn't want prosecutors to 'gild the lily'

And Day Three is underway.

After the prosecution yesterday cast doubt on calling Rick Gates as a witness, they immediately clarified this morning that they intend to have him on the stand. Gates, Manafort’s former business partner, has already pleaded guilty in a deal with Mueller and is considered a key witness for the prosecution.

Prosecutor Uzo Asonye said they are constantly evaluating which witnesses will be called from the list of 35, in an effort to shorten the trial.

Meanwhile, we have an update on the dispute over whether photos of Manfort’s flashy suits and expenditures will be shown to the jury.

Judge Ellis told prosecutors that he isn't likely to allow it because doing so could unfairly "besmirch the defendant."

"It could engender bias against rich people," Ellis told prosecutors, saying he didn’t want them to “gild the lily.”

The jury has seen some photos, but despite a brief filed late Wednesday from prosecutors, urging the judge to let them show more evidence of Manafort's lavish spending, the judge indicated he's not likely to loosen the reins. Jurors have seen some photos, but not as many as prosecutors wanted them to see.

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Jury begins day 3 of deliberations

Judge Ellis brought the jury into the courtroom promptly at 9:30 a.m. Monday morning and called roll. Jurors were asked if they were able to stay away from news reports and other influences over the weekend, and they all answered that they had.

Deliberations resumed at 9:34 a.m.

Jury dismissed for weekend with no verdict yet reached

Judge Ellis dismissed the jury for the weekend and told them to reconvene at 9:30 a.m. Monday.

Jurors were dismissed at 4:55 p.m.

Jury note: We want to go home at 5 p.m.

The jury gave Judge Ellis a note to let him know that they'll finish deliberations for the day at 5 p.m, because one of the members of the jury has an event they'd like to attend tonight.

Court will reconvene at 4:50 p.m. After that, the jury will be asked what time they wish to report on Monday.

Dartunorro Clark

Judge says he has gotten threats, won't reveal juror names

District Court Judge T.S. Ellis, who is overseeing the bank and tax fraud trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, said Friday that he has received threats that necessitate U.S. marshal protection to and from the courthouse.

"I had no idea that this case would excite these emotions, I will tell you that frankly," Ellis told the court as the jury deliberated for a second day. The case is being tried in Alexandria, Virginia.

Ellis's admission came during an afternoon hearing brought by a coalition of media outlets, including NBC News, to unseal juror names and bench conference transcripts of conversations the judge had with the defense and the prosecution.

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Jury resumes deliberations, judge grants hearing to unseal documents

The jury resumed deliberations at 9:37 a.m. on Friday after being empaneled by Judge T.S. Ellis.

Judge Ellis also responded to a request from media organizations to unseal certain documents. Ellis granted the request to intervene and will schedule a hearing to hear arguments "sometime after 2 p.m."

He reiterated that all sealings in the case will be unsealed after the trial is over. It would be disruptive to unseal certain documents during the trial, he said. Nevertheless, he will consider the request.

"I'm no stranger to criticism," Ellis said. "This case has brought it to a new level."

Jury asks 4 questions, including query about reasonable doubt

The note, delivered to Judge Ellis minutes ago, contains four questions from the jury. The judge heard argument from both sides as to the answers. 

Court is now dismissed for the day, and the jury will resume deliberations at 9:30 a.m. Friday.

Here are the questions from the jury, and the answers the judge gave. 

Question: Is one required to file an FBAR if they own less than 50% of the company and no signatory authority?

Answer: After suggestion from the prosecution, Judge Ellis reread Jury Instruction #53, which defined FBARs, and the details surrounding FBARS.

ELLIS: A person is an owner of record (Owner of FBAR) if a person is acting on behalf of a US person with access and control of the account, OR if a US person who owned more than 50% of company.

Q: Define "shelf company"?

A: Rely on collective recollection.

Q: Can you redefine reasonable doubt?

A: The government is not required to prove beyond "all possible doubt," just doubt that can be reasoned.

Q: Can the exhibit list be amended to include the indictment?

A: No.

Jury deliberations begin

The jury of six men and six women will soon begin to decide the fate of Paul Manafort. Judge T.S. Ellis brought in the jury to call roll and laid out the ground rules for deliberation.

"You may deliberate as little or as much as you like," Judge Ellis said.

The jury requested to deliberate in their break room because the actual jury room is too small. Ellis talked about how he was involved in the layout of the courthouse when it was being built. "I didn't pay attention to the size of the jury rooms," Ellis said. "I certainly paid attention to the size of my quarters."

Ellis granted the request.

Ellis called for a five minute recess after dismissing the jury to deliberate. Ellis said that he has other matters during the day and asked if those parties were in the courtroom.

"Mr. Trump, are you here?" he asked the courtroom. The response in the crowd was a mix of laughter and shock. Manafort himself turned around to look at the crowd with a smile.

Jim Trump, an local attorney, stood up and said that his case was next on the docket.

Jury deliberations to begin Thursday

Judge Ellis spent about almost two hours instructing the jurors on the ins and outs of the case. In particular, he reminded them that the defendant is not obligated to prove anything.

Judge Ellis told the jury to acquit Manafort "if the evidence leaves you with a reasonable doubt". He also instructed the jury to ignore any impression they might have inferred about the Department of Justice's motives or lack of motives. Jurors are not allowed to use electronic devices, Ellis said. Ellis declined to read aloud the whole list of banned devices. "Good heavens, this list is outdated. No Blackberrys," Ellis joked.

Ellis also encouraged the jurors not to talk to the media after the trial is over. "I might suggest that you have a duty of confidentiality," Ellis said, though he stressed that it is not an enforceable order. "I hope you take it seriously."

Four juror alternates were also dismissed.

Twelve main jurors will return to court at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow to start deliberations.

Defense wraps closing arguments by taking aim at Gates

Manafort attorney Kevin Downing wasted no time trashing Rick Gates, laying responsibility for FBAR filings, false information provided to accountants, and Manafort's foreign accounts at his feet.

“He is the one who had the signing authority,” he said. Downing said Manafort trusted Gates so much that he gave him the keys to his financials. “What a mistake that was.”

Downing told the jury the Rick Gates they saw was the one the government wanted them to see: a “clean shaven, decent person.”

But he “fell apart,” Downing said, and “showed himself to be the liar that he is,” and pointed to Gates’s hesitance to use the word “embezzle” during cross examination.

Closing out his argument, Downing said, “The government hasn’t met its burden beyond a reasonable doubt that Paul Manafort knowingly and wittingly” committed these offenses.

He thanked the jury for their consideration, and asked “that Mr. Manafort be found not guilty of all charges.”

Manafort defense: 'It is not enough to think someone is probably guilty or likely guilty'

Manafort attorney Richard Westling has kicked off his closing argument, which he will split with Kevin Downing.

Westling start by re-introducing himself to the jury, saying he and his team “are proud and honored to be able to represent Paul Manafort throughout this trial.”

He thanked the jury for their time, attention and service.

He emphasized that Manafort has the presumption of innocence, while the government maintains the burden of proof to prove beyond a reasonable doubt he is guilty. He added that the defense has non burden of proof, and they made the decision not to put up any evidence. “Your job is to ensure the burden is met,” he said.

“Mr. Manafort is innocent,” and will be until the jury rules otherwise, Westling said.

Westling also displayed a chart showing the scale from proven not guilty up through guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

“It is not enough to think someone is probably guilty or likely guilty,” he said. He asked the jury to keep this rating scale in mind, and to “hold the government to its burden, ladies and gentlemen.”

Westling then moved on to Manafort’s reputation as a talented political consultant who “endeavored to serve,” working for the campaigns of Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, Bob Dole and Donald Trump.

He spoke of setting up successful consultancies, adding “he turned to other people to work as a team.” And he said Manafort’s involving bookkeepers, accountants and Gates into his finances was “not consistent with someone attempting to commit a fraud.”

Hinting at Gates, Westling said Manafort relied on people in his consultancies — “Sometimes they are trustworthy, sometimes they are not.”


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