Manafort Lawyer's Sidewalk Speech Draws Trial Judge's Rebuke

(Bloomberg) -- The judge overseeing Paul Manafort’s tax and money-laundering case in Washington had a stern warning for his lawyer: Stop with the sidewalk speeches.

“This is a criminal trial and not a public-relations campaign,” U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said at a hearing Thursday. She admonished lawyers to “do their talking in the courtroom, and the pleadings, and not on the courthouse steps.” Jackson said she might impose a gag order and told the lawyers to submit objections -- if any -- by Nov. 7.

Manafort, the former chairman of the Trump campaign, and Rick Gates, who worked for him while at an international political consulting and lobbying firm, were indicted last week for money laundering and failure to properly disclose their activities to the U.S. government. They’re among the first to be charged by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller in his probe of Russian influence on last year’s presidential election. Both pleaded not guilty.

Kevin Downing, Manafort’s lawyer, blasted the charges as “ridiculous” in a sidewalk speech to the press following the Oct. 30 arraignment of Gates and his client. A third man, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal agents last month. That case was unsealed on the same day as the Manafort-Gates matter.

April Trial

Downing asked on Thursday that a trial be held in April, which the judge said may be possible. She will likely decide at a Nov. 6 hearing, when she’ll also consider whether to change the men’s bail conditions.

A federal magistrate judge placed Gates and Manafort under house arrest after their initial court appearance earlier this week. Both are subject to electronic monitoring and may not leave their homes except to make court appearances, meet with counsel, keep doctors’ appointments and for religious observances.

Failure to comply would mean Manafort would have to pay $10 million and Gates $5 million, yet neither has been required to post cash or real estate to secure their appearances. The judge said those financial terms without electronic monitoring would be insufficient, as would the monitoring alone. Prosecutors say they’re flight risks, citing their financial resources, foreign ties and heavy sentences if either man is convicted.

“If they leave and they do not come back, we need to know where they went,” Jackson said.

While Mueller’s team and Manafort’s attorneys each filed what amounted to position papers on what adequate release terms might be -- with the government making plain they seek additional measures to ensure against the defendants fleeing before trial -- neither party asked the judge for specifics. On Thursday, she ordered them to do so.

“I’m not going to rule on the fly,” Jackson said.

Terms of Release

Gates’s lawyer asked in a filing shortly before Thursday’s hearing that terms of release be eased, citing strong ties to Richmond, Virginia, where he lives with his wife and four kids, as well as the non-violent nature of the charges and lack of a prior criminal history.

Gates described himself in the filing as a devoted family man in an effort to argue that he isn’t a flight risk in hopes of being allowed to travel within the U.S. and on occasion overseas. He said he has limited assets, including a single home in Richmond, and that as a self-employed consultant, home confinement could cost him clients as well as his ability to support his family, according to the filing.

Prosecutors earlier said Gates sought a line of credit last year, claiming he was worth $30 million.

The judge did provide a bit of reprieve to Gates, granting him permission to attend his children’s activities this weekend, provided government officials are told in advance where and when they will occur.

The case is U.S. v. Manafort, 17-cr-201, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

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