Judge T.S. Ellis III ruled Tuesday that Manafort is not entitled to a completely ignorant jury, nor one with as many Republicans as Democrats. Moreover, the nationwide coverage of the case would make any move ineffectual.
“The proximity of defendant’s pretrial publicity to the start of his trial will be the same in Alexandria as it would be in Roanoke or Kansas City or Dallas,” the judge wrote.
That media attention, he added, has not risen to the “carnival or circus atmosphere” that warrants a change of venue.
Manafort served as campaign chairman for several months, and he is being prosecuted as part of the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The Alexandria area has far more voters who opposed the president’s election than reside around Roanoke. But Ellis said any bias against Manafort will be weeded out through jury selection.
“There is no evidence at this time that jurors in this Division are biased,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, prosecutors are busily preparing for trial, filing motions Tuesday to compel five unnamed witnesses to testify under immunity from prosecution.
All five have refused to testify so as not to incriminate themselves; if Ellis approves these orders, what they say cannot be used against them.
The motions are sealed and the government will not name the witnesses unless they are called to testify.
“The five individuals identified in the motions at issue are third parties who have not been charged in this matter, and who have not been identified publicly with the case,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye wrote. “The motions would reveal those individuals’ involvement . . . thereby creating the risk of their undue harassment.”
In both Alexandria and the District of Columbia federal court, where Manafort has another trial scheduled for September, he is accused of hiding his work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine as well as the money he made from that work.
A hearing is scheduled for Monday to go over what evidence will be allowed.
He is incarcerated in Alexandria after being accused of tampering with witnesses in the D.C. case.