ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) – Two bank workers and one employee of the New York Yankees are expected to round out the witness list before federal prosecutors rest their case against Paul Manafort on Friday.
Putting a crimp in the expected closeout of the government’s case, however, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III adjourned proceedings after just an hour this morning until 1:45 p.m.
Ellis said only that he needs to attend to other matters, offering little explanation for the departure from what has otherwise been a breakneck pace.
In a trial expected to take three weeks, the speed of proceedings these last nine days has been due in large part to Judge Ellis, who has made it a common refrain to bellow “hurry it up” at prosecutors Greg Andres, Uzo Asonye and Branden Van Grack from across the bench.
The 78-year-old Reagan appointee earned pushback from prosecutors Friday morning, however, over a recommendation he made the previous afternoon that they “spend time on a loan that was granted.”
The comment came Thursday when prosecutors were questioning Taryn Rodriguez, a loan officer assistant at Citizens Bank, regarding Manafort’s representations in a loan application.
Though Manafort was denied the loan in question, the government says it is not required to prove that Manafort was successful in achieving any or all parts of a conspiracy.
“The court’s suggestion … that the government was unnecessarily spending time on a loan that Manafort did not receive undermines the well established law on conspiracy, undercuts the charge in Count 28, and is likely to confuse and mislead the jury,” the the special counsel’s team said Friday morning in a motion for a curative instruction.
Another concern of the prosecutors is that the judge’s remark “misrepresents the law regarding bank fraud conspiracy [and] improperly conveys the court’s opinion of the facts.”
Thursday’s proceedings ended meanwhile with Judge Ellis signing off on a request by prosecutors to seal a portion of an Aug. 7 sidebar conference that would otherwise “reveal substantive evidence pertaining to an ongoing government investigation.”
Though Manafort was indicted as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian tampering in the 2016 U.S. election, there has been little mention in the trial of Manafort’s work on the campaign trail for Russia’s preferred candidate, President Donald Trump.
Manafort’s trial on bank and tax-fraud charges began with roughly two days dedicated to unraveling his lavish lifestyle and his penchant for couture fashion. The defendant’s extravagant spending is expected to take focus again when the government calls its expected final witness, Irfan Kirimca, senior director of ticket operations for the New York Yankees.
Prosecutors say Manafort had trouble paying for his season tickets, using his ill-gotten gains to secure his box seats.
Two other witnesses for Mueller who have yet to testify are Dennis Raico and James Brennan of Federal Savings Bank.
Court documents show that FSB lent Manafort and his wife, Kathleen, roughly $6.5 million in January 2017 for a property in Brooklyn that the former lobbyist owned. A month later the Chicago-based bank lent one of Manafort’s corporate entities roughly $9.5 million.
Alleging that Manafort made misrepresentations on his loan applications to defraud these financial institutions, the government has granted Raico and Brennan use immunity.
With thousands of pages of evidence in play, it is still unclear whether Manafort’s defense intends to call any of its own witnesses to counter the testimony given by 23 witnesses and counting from the prosecution.
This story is developing…