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Manafort Judge Comically Forgets to Call in the Jury After Unusually Lengthy Recess Comes to End


The intrigue surrounding the Friday installment of Paul Manafort‘s bank and tax fraud trial in the Eastern District of Virginia still doesn’t have an answer, but it does have a laugh line.

One of special counsel Robert Mueller‘s prosecutors, Greg Andres, elicited a laugh at the judge’s expense Friday afternoon days after the judge accused him of crying in the courtroom.

From the Washington Post‘s account of things, lawyers for the government and Manafort re-entered the Eastern District of Virginia courtroom with Judge T.S. Ellis III around 2:18 and the judge asked for a member of each team to approach the bench. After a brief conference, they sat down and then this happened:

Ellis: “All right Mr. Andres, you can call your next witness.”

Andres: “The jury, your honor?”

People laughed and then the jury returned. Although a relatively small thing, it is notable that it is not the first time Ellis, who is 78, has been accused of forgetting something during the trial. In fact, Ellis’ forgetting of something was one of the reasons Team Mueller filed a motion asking the judge to correct himself on Thursday.

Ellis barked at the government when a witness was allowed to sit in and hear testimony, but Team Mueller said they’d already gotten the go-ahead from the judge and that the court transcript would reflect this.

“Well, let me be clear: I don’t care what the transcript says. Maybe I made a mistake,” Ellis said. “But I want you to remember don’t do that again. When I exclude witnesses, I mean everybody. Now, it may be that I didn’t make that clear.”

The judge did correct himself, but later on in the day on Thursday he said something else Team Mueller disagreed with. For the second day in a row on Friday, they filed a motion asking the judge to correct himself before the jury.

According to Talking Points Memo, Ellis did tell the jury to keep an open mind about the case, saying he had to “underscore” that point. He also told them not to discuss the case.

It’s been an unusual day in the courtroom in Alexandria. It was past 2 p.m and counting on the East Coast when Judge Ellis returned to the courtroom after a lengthy unexplained recess. No witness testimony was heard this morning or in the early afternoon. In fact, the trial was expected to continue at 1:45 p.m., but the delay continued until 25 minutes past 2 p.m.

Whether that lengthy recess had to do with the latest complaint from Team Mueller or a juror acting “contrary to the judge’s instructions” remains unclear, but it could also be both.

Either way, this was not addressed when everyone returned to the courtroom and Team Mueller called the first witness of the day, Dennis Raico, to the stand — after the jury returned.

[Image via SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.