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Paul Manafort moved to Alexandria jail, a past home to spies and terrorists

Paul Manafort ordered to jail after witness-tampering charges. (Video: Reuters)
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Paul Manafort has been moved, over his objections, to a new jail with a history of illustrious guests.

Officials confirmed the former Trump campaign chairman was booked Thursday morning into the Alexandria Detention Center, a complex of brick buildings just off the Capital Beltway and a few blocks from the federal courthouse where he is to be tried later this month on bank and tax fraud charges.

“Because he is a high-profile inmate, Mr. Manafort will be placed in protective custody which limits his interactions with other inmates,” Alexandria’s sheriff, Dana Lawhorne, said in a statement. “Specific details about Mr. Manafort’s confinement will not be made public due to security and privacy concerns.”

Manafort, who is being prosecuted by the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, had asked for that trial to be continued in large part because he was being held 100 miles away in the Northern Neck Regional Jail.

But he resisted being brought to Alexandria. In the Northern Neck, he had a private phone and computer and did not have to wear a uniform, according to prosecutors. In Alexandria, there are no private electronics for inmates, and Manafort was wearing a green jumpsuit when his mug shot was taken Thursday.

His attorneys argued that they had safety concerns that made it preferable to keep him in the Northern Neck facility, in Warsaw, Va.

U.S. District Judge T. S. Ellis III rejected those concerns.

“The professionals at the Alexandria Detention Center are very familiar with housing high-profile defendants including foreign and domestic terrorists, spies and traitors,” he wrote in an order Wednesday. “All these defendants were housed safely in Alexandria pending their respective trials and defendant’s experience at the Alexandria Detention Center will presumably be no different.”

Among those spies was FBI agent-turned-Soviet mole Robert Hanssen. He was bumped to a smaller cell after trial to make way for Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person tried in a U.S. court for involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Aldrich Ames and Harold James Nicholson, CIA agents who were convicted of spying for the Soviet Union, also were held in Alexandria. So was New York Times reporter Judith Miller after she refused to cooperate with prosecutors in a leak investigation. The extremist politician Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. faced fraud charges while incarcerated in the jail.

The jail houses about 400 inmates, and at least 150 beds are reserved for federal prisoners like Manafort.

Normally, attorneys who want to visit their clients in Alexandria have two or three windows of time to do so, depending on the day.

“If five lawyers take up five rooms, then you wait in line for someone to finish,” said Marina Medvin, a defense attorney who has represented many clients held there. “If they take up the entire time slot, then you’re out of luck — you need to leave and come back and hopefully be first in line.”

But Ellis ordered that “to the extent practically possible,” Manafort should be able to meet with his lawyers for eight hours a day until the July 25 trial.

“In this particular case, as has been in the past with other inmates, it has been requested that we accommodate special circumstances and we do that,” Lawhorne said.

When Moussaoui was in the jail he had an entire pod of cells to himself and met there with his lawyers, defense attorney Ed MacMahon said, “for security reasons.”

In the Northern Neck, prosecutors said Manafort felt like a “VIP.”

Northern Neck Regional Jail Superintendent Ted Hull denied that Manafort was treated differently than prior occupants of the private living unit, which is reserved for “management problematic” inmates.

Inmates in the section where Manafort was held were permitted to use a jail-issued tablet that includes a phone app to make calls that inmates are informed are recorded, and to use a meeting area for attorneys, Hull said.

Hull said that when jail officials learned Manafort was communicating by email, his attorneys were told to stop the practice.

Manafort had been typing emails on his attorneys’ laptop that the lawyers would send once they were outside the jail, according to a government court filing this week.

Devices brought in by attorneys are “not allowed to be used by the inmate,” Hull said.

He said the defense lawyers signed a form on June 27 acknowledging the rule “that you can’t do that.”

“They said, ‘My bad, we’re not going to do that anymore,’ ” according to Hull.

Manafort was ordered to jail by a federal judge in the District of Columbia, where he faces related charges. Both cases stem from his work for a Russia-backed political party in Ukraine. The longtime lobbyist was out on bond until June, when he was accused of asking people involved in the Ukrainian campaign to lie to investigators.

Manafort’s attorneys have denied the tampering allegations and appealed his detention. A three-judge federal appeals court panel on Thursday denied Manafort’s request to be released pending his appeal of his detention.