A federal judge in Alexandria has ordered Paul Manafort moved to that city’s jail to prepare for his upcoming trial on bank and tax fraud charges. But Manafort is fighting the move, saying he wants to stay at a jail 100 miles away in Virginia’s Northern Neck.
Manafort, who served as President Trump’s campaign chairman for several months, last week asked for his July 25 trial in Alexandria federal court to be delayed until this fall, saying his incarceration at Northern Neck Regional Jail has made it too difficult to prepare. He also wanted the trial moved to Roanoke.
Now the defense says moving Manafort to Alexandria would be more challenging than leaving him where he is.
“In light of Mr. Manafort’s continuing detention and after further reflection, issues of distance and inconvenience must yield to concerns about his safety and, more importantly, the challenges he will face in adjusting to a new place of confinement and the changing circumstances of detention two weeks before trial,” his defense attorneys wrote. “With these considerations in mind, Mr. Manafort respectfully asks the Court to permit him to remain in his current place of detention.”
Judge T.S. Ellis issued the order Tuesday, while saying he would give the special counsel prosecuting Manafort until Friday to weigh in on whether the trial would be moved or delayed.
Manafort’s lawyers wrote in a filing last week that the two-hour trip to the Northern Neck and restrictions on electronic or telephone communications there “has made meetings . . . to prepare his defense far more infrequent and enormously time-consuming.”
The government has given them about 2 million pages of documents to review, they said, tens of thousands of which came only in the past few months.
Defense attorneys said the distance and limitations have made it impossible to adequately prepare for trial and asked that the case be pushed back to this fall, after Manafort faces related charges in D.C. federal court. The judge in that case, Amy Berman Jackson, ordered Manafort to be jailed last month after he was accused of attempting to persuade potential witnesses to lie on the stand.
Manafort has also asked for the Virginia trial to be moved to Roanoke, saying Northern Virginians were too overwhelmed with news stories about the case and too hostile toward the Trump administration to give him a fair trial.
While the charges against Manafort center on his private work for a Russia-backed Ukrainian political party, they were brought by the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Prosecutors say he got one favorable loan only because the bank chairman wanted a job in the Trump administration.
Ellis also ruled this week that evidence seized from Manafort’s storage locker can be used at trial, saying two searches of the unit were legal.
Manafort’s personal assistant Alex Trusko gave “valid consent” to an FBI agent for a search of the unit, the judge wrote in an order released Tuesday, and in a subsequent more thorough search agents were “careful to select and seize only items responsive” to a warrant. Ellis also rejected Manafort’s claim that the warrant was too broad, saying it clearly limited agents to seizing items connected to particular alleged crimes.
The judge overseeing Manafort’s case in D.C. came to a similar conclusion in June.