ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) – Prosecutors at Paul Manafort’s bank and tax fraud trial began their Friday by again asking U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III to allow them to use more visual aids, including charts prepared by the FBI to explain Manafort’s wire transfers, in the courtroom.
Over the course of the first week of the trial, Ellis has repeatedly blocked efforts by the prosecution to show photographs of Manafort’s clothing and other expensive purchases discussed by witnesses.
But in a motion filed Friday morning, prosecutors said “The jury is more likely to understand the evidence through summary charts, and presenting the evidence through charts rather than through the voluminous underlying documents will save time.”
The request comes a day after Judge Ellis turned to the reporters in the courtroom and said he’s seen misleading news reports about the trial that suggested a less-than-complete understanding of the legal arguments being made during the trial.
Although he said he’s “not much for the press,” Ellis allowed that he may have contributed to some of the misunderstanding “By comments I’ve made.”
He said he raised the issue because he firmly believes “the public should understand these proceedings.”
As Thursday came to a close, Manafort’s former tax preparer, Philip Ayliff of Kositzka, Wicks and Company in Richmond, Virginia, began testimony that is expected to continue for much of Friday morning.
So far, Ayliff has offered testimony about how he took Manafort on as a client and the paperwork the “engagement letter” that set the ground rules for their professional relationship.
The letter specifically states to the prospective client “You are responsible for management decisions and functions,” Ayliff said.
The engagement letter also warned Manafort that the firm would not be able to “detect material errors, irregularities or illegal acts.”
Manafort reviewed the letters Ayliff sent from 2012 to 2016 and signed each one.
According to Ayliff, Manafort was also warned by Kositzka, Wicks and Company that a failure to report foreign bank accounts could trigger civil and/or criminal penalties.
“The penalties are severe,” Ayliff said. ‘We ask all of our clients about whether they are adhering to this rule.”
Jurors returned to the courtroom just after 9:45 a.m. Friday to hear more testimony from Ayliff.
He told prosecutor Uzo Asonye he met Manafort at least 30 times over the years the former lobbyist retained his firm.
Davis Manafort Partners became a client of KWC in 1995 but by 1997, Manafort hired them for personal tax services for himself, his wife and two daughters.
Ayliff testified it was Manafort who gave him all the direction necessary when it came to his personal accounts but when it came to Davis Manafort Partners, he described the responsibility as something shared between Manafort and Rick Gates.
“How would you describe the role Mr. Gates had in the business?” Asonye said.
“He was his right-hand person,” Ayliff said.
“But who was in charge?” Asonye continued.
It was Manafort who was “in charge,” he said.
When Asonye asked if he believed or had known Gates to be deceptive about business practices at Davis Manafort, Ayliff said he had not.
Gates never “hid information” from Manafort,” Ayliff said.
During Ayliff’s testimony, prosecutors had the tax preparer review several personal and business-related tax forms filed by Manafort – or Davis Manafort Partners Inc. from 2010 to 2014.
In 2010, Davis Manafort reported sales of $5 million with loses just around $149,000. In 2011, the firm reported gross receipts of $5.3 million and a profit of $660,000. Later that year, Ayliff said, Manafort dissolved the company and formed Davis Manafort Partners International LLC.
The only other partner in the venture was Manafort’s wife, Kathleen.
The company reported gross receipts of $7 million the first year the LLC was formed, with a profit of $950,000. That was also the year Manafort listed a $1.5 million company liability.
It was a loan due to Peranova Holdings – one of Manafort’s shell companies.
The profits only continued to increase for the company with Manafort reporting $1 million in profits for 2013 and $2 million in 2014.
And on the forms, Asonye asked, did Manafort at anytime report that he had foreign bank accounts?
“No,” Ayliff said.
After Ayliff, jurors are expected to hear from Cindy LaPorta, another Kositzka Wicks and Company tax expert. LaPorta is one of five government witnesses who received immunity ahead of trial.
In addition to Laporta, the special counsel also granted immunity to bookkeepers Dennis Raico, Conor O’Brien, Donna Duggan and James Brennan.
Once prosecutors plow through the final round of examination with Manafort’s bookkeepers, it is likely that the prosecution’s key witness Rick Gates will be called to testify.
Defense will begin laying out their response to the prosecution’s case next week.