Manafort Appears in Court in Wheelchair, Sentencing Date Set

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) – Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was brought into a Virginia courtroom in a wheelchair Friday afternoon for a hearing to set his sentencing date, even as lawyers argued his confinement was already negatively affecting his health.

Though he didn’t elaborate, Manafort’s attorney, Kevin Downing told U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III  that his client is dealing with “significant issues” and asked that the court expedite Manafort’s sentencing so he could be moved to a facility better equipped to deal with them.

But prosecutors argued for a delay, saying they preferred Manafort complete his cooperation with Mueller’s investigation as part of a separate plea deal.

“I’m not willing to go on endlessly … I do not extend sentencing in circumstances like this,” Ellis said.

As the lawyers spoke, a visibly grayer Manafort, dressed in a dark green prison jumpsuit and missing his right shoe, looked on silently.

In the end, Ellis set a sentencing date for Feb. 8, 2019. Meanwhile prosecutors with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team announced they are willing to drop 10 outstanding charges against Manafort.

Ellis told prosecutors that he was “unsure” if the special counsel’s team could legally raise the dismissed counts at a later point. That will likely be determined in the coming weeks ahead of sentencing, the judge said.

Friday was Manafort’s first appearance in Alexandria federal court since his conviction on eight bank and tax fraud charges last summer. He did not rise when Ellis approached the bench, though he appeared to pull himself up from his wheelchair momentarily before quickly sitting again.

After his conviction, Manafort struck a plea deal on separate charges in the District of Columbia and agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Manafort promised in his plea agreement to assist government prosecutors with “any and all” matters, and share information related to “his participation in and knowledge of all criminal activities.”

Since then, he has reportedly met with Mueller’s team on multiple occasions, with most of those meetings lasting as much as six hours.

CNN has reported that a black SUV carrying Manafort has been seen arriving at Mueller’s office at least nine times since September.

Among the events Mueller’s team is likely asking about is the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower in New York between Trump campaign officials and Russians who promised they had dirt on Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Attendees at the meeting included Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, U.K.-based publicist Bob Goldstone and a group of Russians including attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, lobbyist Rinat Akmetshin and friend to the Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov, Anatoli Samochornov.

Manafort has also reportedly shared information with Mueller about his former business partner, Roger Stone.

Stone, a former political adviser to the president, has reportedly come under scrutiny by the Special Counsel’s office because of potential communications Stone had with WikiLeaks – and its founder Julian Assanage about the hacking of of Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Stone has called the accusations “false and defamatory.”

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