IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Mueller can't hold threat of retrial over Manafort's head, judge says

Government prosecutors had indicated they would seek to delay Manafort's sentencing in the Virginia case until they were satisfied with his cooperation.
Image: Manafort arrives for arraignment on charges of witness tampering, at U.S. District Court in Washington
Paul Manafort arrives at U.S. District Court in Washington on June 15, 2018.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters file

WASHINGTON — The judge in the Virginia trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has told Robert Mueller's prosecutors that they cannot hold the prospect of a retrial over Manafort's head while they evaluate his cooperation.

A jury in Alexandria, Virginia, found Manafort guilty in August of tax evasion and bank fraud. But jurors were unable to reach a verdict on 10 of the 18 counts filed against him, leaving Mueller's prosecutors to decide whether to put him on trial again on those counts.

In September, Manafort pleaded guilty to separate charges filed by the Mueller team in Washington and agreed to cooperate with investigators. Court filings in that case indicated that the prosecutors would seek to delay Manafort's sentence in the Virginia case until they were satisfied that he had answered all their questions as part of his cooperation agreement.

But late Wednesday, Judge T.S. Ellis said it doesn't work that way in his court in Virginia. "In this district, the government's decision to re-try a defendant on deadlocked counts is always made in a timely manner, and sentencing occurs within two to no more than four months from entry of a guilty plea or receipt of a jury verdict."

He ordered lawyers for both sides to appear at a hearing on Oct. 19 so that he can set a sentencing date. Mueller's team will also have to say at that hearing what they'll do about the remaining counts. If Manafort is cooperating, prosecutors can urge Ellis to impose a lighter sentence. Or they can wait until after he is sentenced and then ask Ellis to reduce the sentence.

Both trials involved Manafort's political consulting for the Russian-backed government of Ukraine and its former president, Viktor Yanukovych, well before Manafort served briefly as Trump's campaign chairman. Manafort was found guilty of intentionally dodging taxes on the millions he was paid for the work, by stashing it in overseas banks and using it to indulge his expensive tastes.