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Paul Manafort found guilty of tax, bank fraud in Mueller probe

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Paul Manafort.
Paul
Manafort.

Thomson
Reuters


  • A jury found Paul Manafort guilty of eight counts out
    of 18 related to tax fraud, bank fraud, and failure to report
    foreign bank accounts on Tuesday after a high stakes criminal
    trial.
  • They were unable to reach a verdict on the other 10
    counts he was accused of, and the judge declared a mistrial on
    those charges.
  • Manafort is the former chairman of President Donald
    Trump’s campaign and he was indicted in the Russia
    investigation.
  • Manafort is set to face trial as part of a second
    indictment from the special counsel Robert Mueller in
    Washington, DC, in September.


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A jury in Alexandria, Virginia has found Paul Manafort guilty of
eight counts related to tax and bank fraud following a high
stakes criminal trial that gripped the nation for weeks.

Specifically, Manafort was convicted of five counts of tax fraud,
two counts of bank fraud, and one count of failure to report
foreign bank accounts.

The former chairman of President Donald Trump’s campaign was
indicted as part of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s
investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Manafort was charged in Virginia with 18 counts in total, but the
jury was unable to reach a verdict Tuesday on 10 counts Manafort
was accused of, and US District Judge T.S. Ellis III declared a
mistrial on those charges.

After the verdict was read, Ellis excused the jury and encouraged
them not to talk to the press, but did not explicitly bar them
from doing so.

“I suggest to you that you have a duty of confidentiality,” he
said, according to CNN.

Earlier Tuesday, the jury sent a note to Ellis asking him what
would happen “if we cannot come to a consensus on a single
count.” They asked how they should fill in the verdict form in
that case, and “what does that mean for the final verdict.”

Ellis said he would give the jury directions on continuing their
deliberations to see if they could reach a unanimous conclusion,
but said he would not issue a new verdict form.

Manafort’s lawyer suggested earlier in the day that jurors should
be given a third option on the form — specifically, a “hung jury”
option for each count, which has never been done before.

Manafort’s trial kicked off last month. The jury first
heard 10 days worth of evidence from the prosecution, aided by
over a dozen witnesses who testified to Manafort’s crimes.

Prosecutors showed the jury scores of documents and emails that
they said painted a clear money trail from Ukraine to Manafort’s
overseas accounts to US vendors Manafort dealt with.

Greg Andres, the lead Justice Department lawyer on the case,
emphasized the government’s claim that Manafort willfully did not
disclose his foreign bank accounts, stashed money in his offshore
accounts to avoid reporting it as income, and later sought to
falsely inflate his income to secure loans when his finances
dried up.

“Mr. Manafort lied to keep more money when he had it, and he lied
to get more money when he didn’t,” Andres said during closing
arguments.


paul manafort trial sketch
This
courtroom sketch depicts Paul Manafort, seated right row second
from right, together with his lawyers, the jury, seated left, and
the U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III, back center,
listening to Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye, standing, during
opening arguments in the trial of President Donald Trump’s former
campaign chairman Manafort’s on tax evasion and bank fraud
charges.

Dana Verkouteren via
AP


While making the prosecution’s argument, Andres frequently
returned to one phrase: “Mr. Manafort’s lies.” Specifically, he
said the jury should focus on Manafort’s alleged falsehoods and
not the credibility of Rick Gates, the government’s main witness
against Manafort, whom the defense repeatedly cast as a liar who
threw Manafort under the bus.

Andres said during closing arguments that the jury didn’t need to
trust or like Gates. Instead, he said, the jury should focus on
what Gates said and how it stacked up against the testimony given
by other critical witnesses, like Manafort’s former bookkeeper,
accountant, and tax preparers.

When he took the stand, Gates admitted to committing crimes with
Manafort, but he also admitted to embezzling millions from his
former boss and having an extramarital affair a decade ago.

Andres sought to shift attention away from Gates during his
closing argument, saying at one point that “the star witness in
this case is the documents.”

When it was their turn, Manafort’s lawyers cast a political
shadow over the proceedings, arguing that Mueller’s case was
comprised of “selective” evidence that didn’t amount to any
crime.

The defense also said the prosecution failed to show that one of
the banks Manafort is accused of defrauding relied on false
information. They also said, more broadly, that the government
had not proven that Manafort acted intentionally to commit the
alleged crimes.

Manafort’s lead defense attorney, Kevin Downing, said last week
that his client was choosing to let the case go to the jury
because he and his attorneys “do not believe that the government
has met its burden of proof.”

During closing arguments last Wednesday, Richard Westling, one of
Manafort’s lawyers, implied that Mueller’s team had embarked on a
fishing expedition to nail Manafort down and suggested that if
any other prosecutors had been looking into the matter, Manafort
wouldn’t have been indicted.

The charges against Manafort weren’t brought until “the special
counsel showed up and started asking questions,” Westling said.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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