Mueller Opposes Manafort Bid to Move Second Trial to Roanoke

(Bloomberg) -- Special Counsel Robert Mueller said a Washington federal judge shouldn’t move Paul Manafort’s trial to the southwest Virginia city of Roanoke because his lawyers didn’t show that pretrial publicity would be any less influential to potential jurors there.

Attorneys for Donald Trump’s former presidential campaign chairman asked U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Aug. 29 to shift the trial 230 miles (370 kilometers) southwest of the nation’s capital, contending that the local jury pool would be biased against him by the media coverage. Their argument was grounded in the size of the TV markets: the Washington metro area is the country’s sixth biggest while Roanoke ranks 70th according to Nielsen data.

Mueller instead said in Friday’s filing that Manafort’s assertions tying the TV market size to news consumption “are open to doubt, and his speculation about the likely propensities of jurors in this district is unfounded.” Manafort’s team also pointed to Washington voters skewing largely Democrat. Mueller said biased jurors can be weeded out during the selection process with proper questioning.

Jury selection in the Washington trial is scheduled to begin on Sept. 17. Manafort is accused of money laundering, failing to register for work he did in Ukraine, and obstruction of justice. On Aug. 21, a federal court jury in Alexandria, Virginia, convicted the former international political strategist on eight felony counts including bank fraud and filing false tax returns in another case brought by Mueller. Manafort had also sought unsuccessfully to have that trial moved to Roanoke, based on similar arguments.

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