Judge removes Manafort's perks with jail move

Then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort talks to reporters at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July 2016

Then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort talks to reporters at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July 2016

Hoping to delay his trial in Virginia on charges of bank fraud and money laundering, Paul Manafort instead managed this week to get himself transferred from a jail where prosecutors said he described his treatment as "VIP" to one where his lawyers claim he is anxious about his safety. But within hours of the judge's order, attorneys for Manafort asked that their client remain at Northern Neck Regional Jail, citing "his safety", among other things, even though they had complained his detention there was hurting his defense. Mueller's office is calling shenanigans.

In response, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III directed that Manafort be moved from his current jail to one in Alexandria, Virginia, where the federal courthouse is located, so that he can be closer to his lawyers.

Still, "Manafort has mentioned that he is being treated like a "VIP"," Mueller's team wrote. In court papers filed July 5, his legal team said it was "effectively impossible" for Manafort to prepare because he is "housed in solitary confinement" and locked in his cell 23 hours a day excluding visits from his attorneys.

Between the two cases, Manafort's lawyers say the government has produced about 2 million pages of documents, tens of thousands of which came in the past few months. One trial is set for July 25 in Alexandria, Virginia, and the second case in Washington, D.C., has a September 17 trial date.

Prosecutors also cited taped phone calls from prison in which Manafort remarked that he was being treated like a "VIP" and had access to "all my files like I would at home".

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Manafort has been charged with numerous criminal counts including tax evasion and bank fraud, but those that have been made public appear to have been committed before his time as then-candidate Donald Trump's campaign manager. They also say he has his own workspace and has had more than 100 phone calls with lawyers in the last three weeks.

But Manafort's legal team didn't complain until the last minute, the US said.

Manafort's attorneys criticized the prosecutors' descriptions of the jail conditions and his emailing tactics, saying the idea of being a VIP is exaggerated. The judge in that case, Amy Berman Jackson, ordered Manafort to be jailed last month after he was accused of attempting to convince potential witnesses to lie on the stand.

They said Mueller's team 'does not pause to consider the reasons a detained defendant might have to make his situation sound better when speaking with concerned friends and family'. A hearing on that issue is set for July 17.

But Ellis had apparently made up his mind. Judge Ellis initially ordered on Tuesday that Manafort should be moved closer to the Washington, D.C., area "to ensure that defendant has access to his counsel and can adequately prepare his defense".

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