Jury Enters Day 2 of Deliberations for Paul Manafort Fraud Trial

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) – Heading into a second day of deliberations Friday, Paul Manafort’s jury is learning quickly that the presiding judge has few indulgences for them.

This courtroom sketch depicts Rick Gates, right, answering questions by prosecutor Greg Andres as he testifies in the trial of Paul Manafort, seated second from left, at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Va., on Aug. 6, 2018. U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III presides as Manafort attorney’s including Kevin Downing, left, Thomas Zehnle, third from left, listen. (Dana Verkouteren via AP)

When the 12-person panel paused their efforts just before 5 p.m. Thursday to have four issues clarified by the court, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III shut down two of their questions.

Declining to define the term “shelf company,” Ellis told the jury to rely on their own memory of the evidence.

Over the course of Manafort’s nearly two-week trial, the term came up in the testimony of several financiers who took the stand for the government, as well as that of star witness Rick Gates. They spoke about a shelf company created by a lawyer in Cypus to control several foreign bank accounts for Manafort that he failed to disclose to U.S. tax authorities.

Judge Ellis also turned down a request by the jury for an updated exhibit list, saying they must rely on their memories to connect exhibits to charges.

One question that Ellis did answer was their request for a definition of reasonable doubt. He said the term is defined by “a doubt based on reason” and emphasized that the government is not obligated to prove guilt “beyond all possible doubt.”

Defense attorney Richard Westling told jurors in his closing statement a day  earlier that it isn’t enough to believe that Manafort is “likely guilty” or even that it is “highly likely” he is guilty.

The jury also asked the court to explain some of the finer points behind foreign bank account registration, or FBAR forms.

Evincing a possible focus on what responsibility Manafort’s wife might have had with regard to the accounts, the jury asked if someone is required to fill out an FBAR form if they own less than 50 percent of a foreign bank account and don’t have signatory authority – but do have access to direct disbursement.

Manafort’s attorneys had emphasized in the trial that he split the ownership of his companies with his wife, Kathleen Manafort, after 2011.

The lobbyist’s defense hinges more directly, however, on the idea that Manafort failed to file his FBAR forms because he believed they were unnecessary since the entities in question were set up under his company, Davis Manafort Partners. 

Answering the jury’s question here, Judge Ellis said that, in addition to the requirement to file an FBAR form if a person owns over 50 percent of the related company, an individual must also file FBAR if they control the flow of money held in that account.

At a brief hearing Friday afternoon, Judge Ellis denied a group of media outlets’ motion to unseal the names and addresses of jurors, revealing that he has received threats during the trial.

“I won’t reveal to you any of the threats…and I have no reason to believe that if [the jurors] had their names revealed, they wouldn’t be threatened. I don’t feel it’s right if I release their names,” he said from the bench.

Ellis added, “I have the Marshal’s protection. I don’t even go to the hotel alone. I won’t even reveal the name of the hotel.”

Ellis also said he will not release transcripts of bench conferences with attorneys before the trial has concluded.

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