While jury selection in Paul Manafort’s bank fraud and tax evasion trial got underway in a Virginia courtroom Tuesday, a federal appeals court rejected Manafort’s appeal for release on bail.
The Federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld revocation of Manafort’s bail due to allegations of new crimes of witness tampering while he was free.
Manafort, the former campaign manager for President Trump, was indicted in October 2017 on nine counts, including conspiracy against the U.S., money laundering, failure to register as a foreign agent and failing to file reports of foreign financial accounts. In February, more charges were added, including tax evasion and failure to report foreign assets.
Among the conditions of Manafort’s bail was a gag order on both sides from making statements to the media or in public that might materially prejudice the case. It was then discovered that Manafort violated the gag order by ghostwriting an editorial regarding his political work for the Ukraine.
In addition, prosecutors alleged that two people who were principles in a public relations company acted as intermediaries between Manafort, the Hapsburg Group, and co-defendant Richard Gates, who has pled guilty to separate charges and will testify against Manafort.
Prosecutors then moved to revoke Manafort’s bail after they discovered he allegedly contacted two witnesses “in an effort to secure materially false testimony concerning the activities of the Hapsburg group.” The government argues Manafort attempted to get witnesses to lie on his behalf.
“The conduct that loomed largest – in both the briefing on the revocation motion and the district court’s findings – was the evidence suggesting appellant had committed a crime while on release,” Judge Robert Wilkins wrote for the panel
Yet, despite warnings from the trial court about “skating close to the line” with respect to potential violation of the gag order, Manafort “failed to heed those warnings and went right past the line with the alleged witness tampering,” Wilkins wrote.
Case: US v. Manafort, No. 18-3037