Turkey Day Will Net Bail Relief for Manafort, Gates in Russia Case

WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge gave a Thanksgiving-inspired break Tuesday to indicted former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, his longtime business associate.

Under house arrest while awaiting trial in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, the men won permission to travel for family events on Thursday and Friday.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said Manafort and Gates must report their travel destinations, as well as the exact times they will be traveling, by Wednesday at 5 p.m. They must also wear their GPS monitoring bracelets and will not be allowed to drink alcohol.

Manafort asked to travel somewhere “local,” while Gates asked to go somewhere in Virginia. Evidence about the men’s extreme wealth has led the government to characterize them as flight risks, but prosecutors said they did not oppose the limited release subject to the aforementioned restrictions.

A representative for the Special Counsel’s office declined to comment on Monday’s order.

Shanlon Wu, an attorney for Gates, also declined to comment on the ruling after the hearing. Along with all other attorneys and witnesses involved in the case, the partner at Wu, Grohovsky & Whipple is subject to a gag order by Jackson that restricts him from speaking to reporters.

Neither Manafort or Gates were in court Monday afternoon, with attorneys for both saying they had signed forms waiving their appearances.

Laurie Levenson, a law professor at Loyola University and former trial and appellate lawyer with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, said relaxation of the restrictions on Manafort and Gates is not out of the ordinary.

“It is not that unusual for a judge to grant bond, especially around the holidays, so long as the defendant’s appearance is appropriately secured,” Levenson said in an email. “I’m not surprised that the court has granted the motions and I wouldn’t read too much into that order. It does not necessarily indicate that the court has formed an opinion regarding their guilt or innocence, or regarding the strength of the government’s case.”

Both Manafort and Gates have been confined at home on unsecured bonds since their initial court appearance on Oct. 30 when they pleaded not guilty to 12 counts including money laundering, failure to register as foreign agents, failure to report foreign financial accounts, conspiracy and making false statements.

They are allowed to leave home only to meet with their lawyers and make court appearances, or for religious services and medical care. Jackson has allowed Gates to leave home to vote and attend family activities, but has not approved all of his requests for outings.

Manafort and Gates have been held on unsecured bonds – $10 million and $5 million respectively – which they would have to forfeit if they fail to come to court without permission.

Neither has proposed a final bond package with particular assets to the court yet, but attorney Wu told Jackson that he dropped off the necessary paperwork at the clerk’s office to pledge Gates’ private residence as bond security.

Jackson balked at the offer, however, saying the property’s value falls short of the $5 million bond requirement for Gates. She also said she was “taken aback” that Wu would task the clerk’s office with delivering the documents to her.

“You cannot communicate with the court by passing notes,” Jackson said. “You can’t just sidestep this process by dropping things off in the clerk’s office.”

Jackson has said she is open to altering the confinement conditions of Manafort and Gates but not before they file motions to modify them, and submit documentation verifying their property values.

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