Judge Won’t Suppress Evidence From Manafort’s Home

WASHINGTON (CN) – Evidence seized from President Trump’s embattled ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort’s private residence won’t be suppressed, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is presiding over Manafort’s criminal case in Washington, D.C., disagreed with Manafort’s assessment that the search warrant for his residence was overly broad.

“Given the nature of the investigation, the warrant was not too broad in scope, and the affidavit set forth sufficient grounds to believe that there would be relevant material on the premises stored on electronic media,” Jackson wrote in her 21-page opinion.

Jackson said federal agents also “relied in good faith” on the warrant, which a U.S. magistrate judge signed off on.

Manafort asked the court to suppress the evidence back in April, claiming the search of his Alexandria, Virginia, residence on July 26, 2017 violated his Fourth Amendment rights. He also claimed special counsel Robert Muller lacked authority to seek the warrant, and that the government improperly retained what it seized for nine months, including items that were not relevant to the investigation.

His arguments failed to persuade Jackson.

“The categories Manafort complains about are listed as examples of the types of records that would be covered by the warrant – subsets of the set of responsive records bounded by the particular crimes under investigation,” Jackson wrote.

Someone who worked with Manafort told a federal agent that Manafort kept a home office at his Alexandria residence and stored business records there. Prosecutors also had bank and financial records addressed to that residence, as well as a communication from Manafort concerning his Foreign Agent Registration Act filings, the opinion says.

“Also, investigators had obtained bank records and invoices sent to defendant’s home in Alexandria reflecting the purchase of clothing, jewelry, rugs, and other goods using funds wired from several of the Cypriot accounts listed in the affidavit,” Jackson wrote.

That gave the investigating agent good reason to believe those items might be located at Manafort’s residence.

Manafort’s employee also reportedly told the agent that Manafort stored records on “external hard drives, thumb drives, and magnetic disks;” “made widespread use of electronic media in the course of his business activity;” and kept a “drawer full of phones and electronic equipment” at the residence.

Jackson said the affidavit gave reason to believe agents would uncover evidence on the electronic devices seized from Manafort of the crimes he was accused of committing.

“The crimes for which probable cause was set forth in the affidavit relate to the conduct of an international business operation and international financial transactions, and they involve activities for which records are ordinarily generated and often retained on electronic media,” the opinion says.

Manafort faces charges of conspiracy, money laundering, failing to register as a foreign agent, making false statements and obstruction of justice in Washington, D.C. The charges relate to his Ukrainian lobbying work on behalf of the pro-Russia Party of Regents. The Alexandria, Virginia, case – with a trial set for July 25 – includes additional and related tax and bank fraud charges.

Manafort has suffered a slew of legal defeats in recent weeks. Jackson denied his request to suppress evidence obtained from his storage locker on June 21, just one week after she revoked his pretrial release when a grand jury found probable cause to indict him for attempting to tamper with the testimony of two potential witnesses.

He has been jailed since.

On July 12, the D.C. Circuit denied Manafort’s bid for pretrial release pending appeal of his detention order, just as U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III – who is presiding over the Virginia case – ordered Manafort moved from a jail in rural Warsaw, Virginia, to a facility in Alexandria despite Manafort’s objections.

Ellis also denied Manafort’s request Tuesday for a venue change after he complained about the partiality of the jury pool, finding the concern unfounded.

Ellis will hear arguments Monday on Manafort’s motion to delay his Virginia trial, which is slated to begin July 25.

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