Politics

Manafort Jury Stuck on Foreign Accounts, ‘Reasonable Doubt’

Jurors had four questions for judge Thursday

A protester stands outside the United States District Court on July 31 in Alexandria, Va., where President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort is standing trial. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

After roughly seven hours of deliberation Thursday, the six men and six women on the jury deciding the fate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort will require at least another day to hand down their verdict.

At approximately 5:06 p.m., Judge T.S. Ellis III read a handwritten note from the jury with four questions. One of the questions referred to the requirements for people filing reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, or FBARs. Another asked the judge to redefine “reasonable doubt.”

The questions Thursday afternoon provide insight into the debates jurors are sorting out as they try to come to a consensus agreement on whether Manafort is guilty or innocent on none, some, or all, of the 18 counts of tax evasion and bank fraud.

Watch: What I Saw That You Couldn’t See at the Manafort Trial, Week 2

FBAR dilemma

In their first question for Ellis, the jury asked if someone is required to file an FBAR if they own “less than 50 percent of the account, do not have signature authority over the account,” but do have the authority to “direct disbursement of funds” from the account.

Prosecutors have charged Manafort with willfully failing to submit FBARs to the Treasury Department in order to conceal the existence of 31 foreign accounts in which he allegedly hid more than $30 million from the IRS.

To be required to file an FBAR, a person must own more than 50 percent of the entity with foreign accounts. For the years 2012 through 2014, Manafort owned a flat 50 percent of his political consulting firms that controlled the foreign bank accounts, the defense has argued — just under the threshold that would trigger an FBAR requirement.

But Manafort’s wife, Kathleen, owned the other 50 percent, and the couple have filed joint tax returns for decades, U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye has argued. The rules for filing an FBAR state that a person can have ownership both “directly” and “indirectly.”

The jury must decide if Kathleen Manafort’s 50 percent stake in Davis Manafort Partners and DMP International counts as her husband’s “indirect” ownership.

 The judge noted Thursday that a person who meets the 50 percent ownership threshold and has a “financial interest” in the account “for his or her own benefit” must file an FBAR.

When in doubt

Prosecutors showed how Manafort directed his account manager, Cypriot lawyer Kypros Chrysostomides (referred to in court as “Dr. K” due to his name’s difficult pronunciation and spelling for non-Greek speakers), to spend millions of dollars wiring money to vendors in the U.S. for yard work on Manafort’s properties, multiple automobiles, and luxury clothing items such as the now-infamous ostrich-skin jacket.

The jurors also asked Ellis to redefine “reasonable doubt” for them. Prosecutors in the U.S. bear the burden of proving a defendant’s guilt.

The government is not, Ellis reminded the jury, required to prove Manafort’s innocence “beyond all possible doubt.”

But if any juror has a reasonable doubt — “a doubt based in reason,” Ellis said — then Manafort’s presumption of innocence would still be intact.

Other queries

Another question from the jury revolved around the definition of a “shelf company,” a term Manafort’s longtime deputy Rick Gates used in his testimony to describe accounts Dr. K set up in Cyprus in 2007 that would leave no paper trail tying Manafort to them, even though he had de facto control over the accounts.

Ellis declined to define the term for them, indicating they had to rely on the testimony and evidence provided throughout the trial in their deliberation on such matters.

Finally, jurors asked if the exhibit list could include which pieces of evidence pertained to which indictments.

The judge said they must rely on their own “collective” memory to make their decision on each count.

The jury recessed for the day at 5:20 p.m., Eastern time, and will reconvene Friday at 9:30 a.m. to continue considering their verdict on the 18 charges.

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