Judge in Manafort case chides lawyers over sealed fil­ings

‘The fact that this case is of sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic in­ter­est is not a rea­son to seal things,’ she says

Waterloo Region Record - - World - ERIC TUCKER

WASH­ING­TON — The judge pre­sid­ing over the crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tions of two of the men charged in spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion chided lawyers Wed­nes­day for the num­ber of sealed fil­ings they’ve made.

She said she was de­ter­mined to set a trial date soon to keep the case mov­ing for­ward.

Paul Manafort, the for­mer cam­paign chair for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, and his busi­ness as­so­ciate Rick Gates were in fed­eral court on Wed­nes­day for a rou­tine sta­tus con­fer­ence.

Both were in­dicted in Oc­to­ber on charges re­lated to lob­by­ing work on be­half of a Rus­sia-friendly Ukrainian po­lit­i­cal party. They have pleaded not guilty.

U.S. Dis­trict Judge Amy Ber­man Jack­son said that while she un­der­stood the need to pro­tect cer­tain in­for­ma­tion, such as bank ac­count num­bers and names of fam­ily mem­bers, she thought the lawyers had been “over­do­ing it” with the amount of fil­ings be­ing made un­der seal and out of pub­lic view.

She or­dered that sev­eral fil­ings in the case be added to the pub­lic docket in at least redacted form.

“The fact that this case is of sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic in­ter­est is not a rea­son to seal things,” the judge said. “It’s a rea­son to un­seal things.”

Nonethe­less, lawyers for each de­fen­dant met with Jack­son be­hind closed doors for long stretches on Wed­nes­day.

Manafort and Gates, ac­cused of money laun­der­ing con­spir­acy, mak­ing false state­ments and other crimes, were charged as part of Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into po­ten­tial co-or­di­na­tion be­tween the Trump cam­paign and Rus­sia.

Prose­cu­tors re­vealed the in­dict­ment against the two men on the same day they un­sealed a guilty plea from Ge­orge Pa­padopou­los, a for­mer Trump cam­paign aide.

They have since reached a plea deal with for­mer Trump na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Michael Flynn.

At one point dur­ing the sta­tus con­fer­ence, Jack­son ap­peared ex­as­per­ated that no trial date has been set for Manafort and Gates, not­ing that they face se­ri­ous charges and po­ten­tially years­long pri­son sen­tences and should there­fore have the case move along.

She ex­pressed frus­tra­tion that the early court dates in the case have been largely fo­cused on other mat­ters, such as both de­fen­dants’ re­quests to change the con­di­tions of home con­fine­ment that were im­posed im­me­di­ately af­ter their in­dict­ment.

Lawyers for Gates said in a court fil­ing made pub­lic last week that they had “ir­rec­on­cil­able dif­fer­ences” with their client and have asked to with­draw from the case.

The ex­act na­ture of those dif­fer­ences has not been pub­licly dis­closed.

A vet­eran Wash­ing­ton crim­i­nal defence lawyer, Thomas Green, sat in the back of the court­room dur­ing the sta­tus con­fer­ence and was seen walk­ing out with Gates.


Paul Manafort, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump's for­mer cam­paign chair, leaves the fed­eral court­house in Wash­ing­ton on Wed­nes­day .

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