Manafort Jury Asks Judge to Redefine ‘Reasonable Doubt’

(Bloomberg) -- Jurors at the fraud trial of Paul Manafort ended their first day of deliberations by asking the judge the central question at the heart of every criminal trial -- what is reasonable doubt?

The panel asked three other questions in the same note on Thursday, including a pair that relate to whether Manafort committed crimes by hiding foreign corporations that held tens of millions of dollars from U.S. tax authorities.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III answered each of the questions before dismissing the 12-member panel. They will return on Friday to resume deliberations.

Ellis said U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller isn’t required to prove its case “beyond all possible doubt.” Rather, he said, a reasonable doubt is “one that is based on reason.”

Another question related to whether Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, was required to file foreign bank reports, or FBARs. The jurors asked whether someone is required to file FBARs if the person owns less than 50 percent of the account and does not have signature authority, but is authorized to disburse funds.

The question suggests that jurors are working through the complex legal requirements underlying the four FBAR counts against Manafort. He’s also charged with failing to disclose those accounts on his tax returns, and with not disclosing income.

The jurors also asked if the judge could define a shelf company and the filing requirement related to income. During his testimony, Manafort’s former right-hand man, Rick Gates, referred to foreign accounts as shelf companies. The judge asked what he meant by the term.

“Shelf companies are basically companies in Cyprus that have already been set up and remain on the corporate registry in Cyprus and that you’re allowed to use,” Gates testified. “And it’s cheaper than to set up a company that you actually create a name for.”

Jurors asked whether the list of 388 exhibits could be amended to correspond to each of the 18 counts in the indictment against Manafort. The judge wouldn’t respond to any of the questions related to FBARs, shelf companies or exhibits, telling the jurors to rely on their memories and notes.

After the session ended for the day, Manafort’s attorney Kevin Downing said: "Well, we just got some good news. The jury’s been deliberating. They had some questions which the judge addressed and they’ve asked to come back tomorrow to continue deliberations, so overall a very good day for Mr. Manafort."

The case is U.S. v. Manafort, 18-cr-83, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria).

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