The Alexandria, Virginia, jury considering the guilt of one-time Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort on 18 counts of bank fraud and tax evasion did not reach a verdict after spending all of Thursday in deliberations.
The jury did, however, present four questions to Judge T.S. Ellis of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, who presided over Manafort’s 12-day trial. According to NBC News, the questions were as follows:
- Is one required to file an FBAR [Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts form] if they own less than 50% of the company and no signatory authority?
- Define “shelf company?”
- Redefine “reasonable doubt?”
- Can the exhibit list be amended to include the indictment?
The third question, about the definition of the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard of proof required to convict defendants in American criminal trials, may indicate one or more jurors is questioning the sufficiency of the evidence Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors presented at trial on at least one of the counts. The definition has always been nebulous, and defining the term “reasonable doubt” too precisely has long been controversial in criminal procedure. A juror is generally held to be the ultimate judge of what is a “reasonable” doubt about a defendant’s guilt.
The first two questions relate to technical matters in the hundreds of complex financial documents which make up a significant portion of the evidence against Manafort. He is broadly accused of hiding millions of dollars in profits made from representing Eastern European politicians, failing to pay taxes on that money, and then applying for bank loans fraudulently. Co-defendant Rick Gates, Manafort’s partner in these business dealings, turned state’s evidence in exchange for a lighter sentence and testified to the truth of the government’s version of the facts.
According to Fox News, one of Manafort’s defense attorneys was heartened by the jury’s questions, saying, “We’re in the game.”
Lead defense attorney Kevin Downing, meanwhile, told reporters that Thursday was “overall a very good day for Mr. Manafort” in light of the questions the jury presented.
Commentators on the left appear to be preemptively assembling a narrative should Manafort be aquitted of the charges, none of which stem from his involvement in the President Donald Trump’s campaign. On Thursday, the Washington Post published an op-ed by retired Massachusetts federal Judge Nancy Gertner, accusing Judge Ellis of bias in his handling of Mueller’s prosecutors at trial. Her criticisms echo those left-wing cable news commentators like Rachel Maddow have made nightly throughout Manafort’s trial.
The length of jury deliberation can vary widely. The jury could reach a decision as early as tomorrow morning, or the process could go on much longer.
Should he be acquitted, Manafort, who is being held in jail as a result of an alleged attempt to tamper with witnesses in his other criminal trial in Washington, DC, would likely remain in jail pending this second trial, which includes charges of failing to register as a foreign agent. Should he be convicted, Manafort, 69, faces a maximum sentence that could range into the centuries. Prosecutors are reportedly seeking eight to ten years in prison.