Manafort Judge to Prosecutor: ‘There’s Tears in Your Eyes’
(Bloomberg) -- Tensions at the Paul Manafort fraud trial grew so heated Monday that the judge suggested that one of Robert Mueller’s prosecutors was crying during a discussion out of the jury’s earshot, according to a transcript of the proceedings.
“I understand how frustrated you are,” U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III said during the discussion. “In fact, there’s tears in your eyes right now.’’
When Prosecutor Greg Andres protested that he didn’t have tears in his eyes, the judge shot back: “Well, they’re watery.”
The exchange came during testimony by Manafort’s former right-hand man, Rick Gates, who offered dramatic details about how he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from his boss while helping him hide offshore accounts from U.S. tax authorities and defraud bankers to secure loans.
Mueller’s team has clashed repeatedly with Ellis, who questions the relevance of detailed evidence about Manafort’s work as a political consultant in Ukraine, where prosecutors say he made more than $60 million from 2010 to 2014. Some of those confrontations continued in bench conferences that jurors and dozens of media members couldn’t hear in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.
Andres complained that Ellis was blocking him from asking important questions while placing an emphasis on moving quickly at the bank- and tax-fraud trial of Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman. Ellis disagreed, saying he wasn’t emphasizing speed over substance. The judge continued that delay is unnecessary, and prosecutors should stick to the relevant evidence.
What follows is taken from the transcript:
“Look at me when you’re talking to me,’’ Ellis said to Andres.
“I’m sorry, judge, I was,’’ Andres said.
“No, you weren’t,’’ Ellis said. “You were looking down.’’
“Because I don’t want to get in trouble for some facial expression,’’ the prosecutor said. “I don’t want to get yelled at again by the court for having some facial expression when I’m not doing anything wrong, but trying my case.’’
Ellis said to another prosecutor: “You must be quiet.’’
“I’m sorry, judge,’’ Andres said.
“Well, I understand how frustrated you are. In fact, there’s tears in your eyes right now.’’
“There are not tears in my eyes, Judge,’’ Andres said.
“Well, they’re watery,’’ Ellis said. “Look, I want you to focus sharply on what you need to prove -- to prove the crime. And I don’t understand what a lot of these questions have to do with it.’
The lawyers then returned to open court, and further sniping ensued after jurors left for the day. At the end of the day, Andres apologized to the judge, saying he didn’t mean to be disrespectful. The judge seemed to offer an olive branch.
“Don’t worry about it,’’ said Ellis, a 31-year veteran of the bench. “I’m not concerned about that at all. I remember trying cases.’’
Ellis said he had cases that were important to him and his career.
“I remember the stress and I remember the pressure,’’ he said. “This is a stressful time. So I understand that. But I’m trying to minimize the stress time is all I’m trying to do. And I think we can do it. I don’t think this case is as complex as it could be made to be.’’
Gates returns to the witness stand on Tuesday morning.
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