Politics

Manafort Judge Says He’s Getting Death Threats

Judge T.S. Ellis III says he won’t reveal jurors information to prevent them from getting similar threats

The media set up microphones on July 31 in front of the United States District Court in Alexandria, Va., where President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was standing trial. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 3:36 p.m. | The judge presiding over the trial of former Trump presidential campaign chairman Paul Manafort will not release the names and addresses of jurors to prevent exposing them to threats similar to what he has received, he said Friday.

Judge T.S. Ellis III said he has received death threats during the proceedings over the last few weeks and has had a U.S. marshals detail following him at all times.

The Washington Post, CNN, Buzzfeed and other media outlets filed a motion requesting that Ellis release jurors’ information and unseal transcripts from certain sidebar conferences during the trial, in which lawyers from both sides met with the judge to hash out technical disputes.

Manafort, the first subject of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team to stand trial, is facing 18 counts related to tax evasion and bank fraud.

The jury is on its second day deliberating their verdict after listening to 11 days of witness testimony, evidence and arguments.

Ellis commended the role of media outlets in covering trials and urged the publications to appeal his decision to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“A thirsty press is essential” to monitoring the integrity of U.S. courts, Ellis said Friday at a hearing on the motion. “Yes, intervene. Appeal it to the 4th Circuit. … What I do is subject to review. It has been for 31 years.”

Experts have levied criticism at the 78-year-old Ronald Reagan appointee for his often angry tone with prosecutors during the trial — though Mueller’s team seemed to improve throughout the proceedings at taking Ellis’ sarcastic quips on the chin and making the judge laugh with clever retorts of their own.

He repeatedly barked at U.S. Attorneys Greg Andres and Uzo Asonye to “focus sharply” on their case, questioning the relevance of their evidence at many turns before, usually, deciding to let them move ahead with their presentation.

Ellis appeared to single out Andres, said former federal prosecutor Harry Litman, who appeared before Ellis while he was with the Justice Department for roughly five years in the mid-1990s.

“I do somehow think he has gotten his back up personally about Greg Andres. I’m not sure why, but there have been certain exchanges at sidebar that have seemed not all that judicious to me,” he said.

At times, Ellis has crossed lines, Litman said.

After former Manafort business associate Rick Gates testified that Manafort was “pretty good about knowing” where his money was, Ellis couldn’t suppress a quip that appeared to call into question Gates’ testimony.

Manafort couldn’t have followed his income “that closely” since Gates had “stolen” hundreds of thousands of dollars from him, Ellis said.

“That’s really beyond the pale for the judge,” Litman said of the exchange, which took place during cross-examination, in front of the jury last week.

Watch: What I Saw That You Couldn’t See at the Manafort Trial

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