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, which was not present for his comments, 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 has had with the defense and the prosecution.
Ellis refused to reveal the names of the jurors because he fears they would face similar threats — without being afforded the same protections.
"I have no reason to believe that, if those names are unsealed, there won't be threats against them," he said.
Ellis also said he would not unseal the one bench conference related to the ongoing investigation, because he did not want to interfere in it, though at the conclusion of the case, he will unseal transcripts related to the administration of the jury.
The prosecution and defense, including Manafort, were in the courtroom when Ellis made his remarks.
Manafort is facing 18 charges of tax and banking fraud, and has pleaded not guilty to all charges. The charges do not involve Manafort's brief time as Trump's campaign chairman in 2016, and while it is the first case brought by Mueller to go before a jury, it does not involve Russian interference in the 2016 election or possible collusion with the Trump campaign.
Prosecutors have painted Manafort as a liar who hid millions from U.S. tax authorities in overseas accounts for years, while Manafort's attorneys sought to paint him as a talented political consultant who had served several elected officials, including Trump, while pinning the blame for any wrongdoing on Rick Gates, Manafort’s former protégé and the key witness against him.