Manafort Jury Pool Takes First Step to Hearing High-Profile Case

(Bloomberg) -- About 70 people in northern Virginia took their first steps in the jury selection process for the case of Paul Manafort when they filled out written questionnaires exploring their personal lives and factors that may influence their attitude toward the trial.

Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman who’s been in custody, wore a dark suit to attend the 20-minute courtroom session Tuesday. On Monday, without potential jurors present, Manafort, 69, wore a green jail jumpsuit at a hearing for his bank- and tax-fraud trial in federal court in Alexandria.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III told the jury pool that the trial will last three weeks and that they would be asked in a questionnaire about whether they’ve formed any opinions based on news accounts about the high-profile case prosecuted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

He summarized some of the questions for the group, including: “Can you put aside any opinions you have, based on what you’ve read or heard, and review the case based solely on the evidence?’’

The jury will be chosen July 31 when the group returns to answer questions from the judge based on their written responses to 27 main questions. As with other trials, the topics include work history, education, prior jury service, attitudes toward law enforcement, and experience with the criminal justice system.

Click Here for the Questionnaire

But some of the questions are unique to Manafort’s trial. He’s accused of failing to disclose income from or the existence of offshore accounts that held millions of dollars he earned as a political consultant in Ukraine. He’s also charged with lying to banks to obtain $20 million in loans backed by real estate.

The questions include whether a person has been audited by the Internal Revenue Service; worked as an auditor, mortgage officer, tax preparer or accountant; been employed by a bank or financial institution; or applied to finance or refinance real property.

“Is there anything about the process of applying for financing or refinancing that you found remarkable?,’’ the potential jurors are asked. “If so, please describe.’’

Manafort’s business ties to foreign governments or leaders, specifically Ukraine and its president, are also referenced in the questionnaire.

“Having ties to a foreign government or leader is, of course, in and of itself, not a crime,’’ the potential jurors were told in the questionnaire. “But knowing this information would you nonetheless find it difficult to decide the case fairly and impartially based solely on the evidence?’’

Prosecutors disclosed a bit more about the witnesses they may have. When asked by the judge about what law enforcement witnesses the government may call, Prosecutor Greg Andres said they may include agents from Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

On Monday, the judge ordered prosecutors to give their witness list to Manafort’s lawyers. At the hearing on Tuesday, he said he’ll make the list public later this week. A prosecutor said that’s not a typical practice.

“Why shouldn’t it be made public?’’ Ellis said. “This is not a typical case.’’

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