“The evidence was overwhelming,” Duncan said, pointing to prosecutors’ extensive paper trail. “I did not want Paul Manafort to be guilty, but he was, and no one’s above the law.”
Jurors ultimately convicted Manafort of eight of the 18 charges he faced for bank fraud, tax fraud and not filing reports of his foreign bank accounts, and could not reach consensus on the remaining 10. Prosecutors had accused Manafort of not paying taxes on about $15 million he earned working for a pro-Russian candidate in Ukraine, and of trying to defraud banks to obtain loans when his money from the candidate ran out.
Duncan, who identified herself as a Trump supporter, is the first juror to speak publicly about the trial and the jury’s deliberations. She told NBC News that, during he jury selection, she remained quiet about her political beliefs, saying, “I didn’t believe politics had any place in that courtroom, so I was somewhat vague in my answers. I knew I could be fair and impartial.”
She said the jury’s deliberations were tense. One juror, Duncan told Fox News, would side with the majority at first, and later say she felt “pressured” and want to change her vote.
“There were even tears,” Duncan said. She said jurors ultimately found consensus on the eight counts, but could not move the holdout off her position.
“We all tried to convince her to look at the paper trail. We laid it out in front of her, again and again, and she still said that she had a reasonable doubt, and that’s the way the jury worked,” Duncan said. “We didn’t want it to be hung, so we tried for an extended period of time to convince her, but in the end, she held out.”
Duncan, though, was not laudatory of the special counsel’s prosecutors who handled the case, and some of her comments might give prosecutors pause as they weigh cases against other Trump associates.
Although she said it was “pretty easy to connect the dots” after prosecutors’ presentation, she described the special counsel team as seeming “a little bored” during the proceedings.
“I saw them napping during the trial,” Duncan said, citing in particular prosecutors Brandon Van Grack and Greg Andres. “So it kind of sent a message of ‘We’re bored with this,’ and I’m thinking, ‘Well, if you’re bored, then why are we here?’ ”
Duncan also said she was underwhelmed by Manafort’s defense and seemed to acknowledge that Manafort’s decision not to testify influenced her decision. The judge, T.S. Ellis III, had told jurors that they should not hold that against Manafort.
“We’re supposed to assume he’s innocent and therefore he does not need to defend himself, and the judge made that very clear, that there is no requirement for him to do so. However, just based on what I saw, what I heard, I think I would have liked to have heard a little more from the defense,” she said. “They gave a very easygoing atmosphere to the whole thing, they objected to very little, and appeared agreeable throughout it all.”
Spokespeople for the special counsel’s office and Manafort declined to comment.
Duncan told Fox News that some jurors had a problem accepting the testimony of Manafort business partner Rick Gates — who also worked on the Trump campaign and was considered the special counsel’s star witness. That could be particularly worrisome for the special counsel’s office if it hopes to use Gates to speak about other alleged Trump-related wrongdoing at a different trial, such as the one Manafort is facing in the District next month.
“We agreed to throw out his testimony and look at the paperwork,” Duncan said of Gates.
Duncan also said the case was politicized. Prosecutors “tried to make the case about the Russian collusion right from the beginning, and of course the judge shut them down on that,” she said. “We did waste a bit of time with that shenanigans.”
That comment might be taking into account information that was public but not presented to jurors. Before the trial, Ellis had barred both sides from broaching the topic of Russian collusion.
Duncan noted accurately, though, that the evidence included references to Trump, particularly when it came to Manafort’s dealings with a bank chairman who wanted a job in the administration.
Asked whether she agreed with the judge’s assessment before the trial that the special counsel hoped to use Manafort to gain information about Trump, Duncan responded, “Exact, spot on.”
“I think that they used Manafort to try to get the dirt on Trump, or hoping that he would flip on Trump,” she said.