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Manafort’s Defense Hints at Major Strategy Change for Second Trial


Paul Manafort mugshot

During Paul Manafort‘s Virginia bank and tax fraud trial, Manafort’s defense attorneys declined to put on a defense, significantly limiting witness testimony, cross-examination and the length of the trial. The latest information provided in court documents indicates that Manafort’s team may be more inclined to mount a defense the second time around.

The problem appears to be that they haven’t worked out yet exactly how they will execute that defense. Here’s why that’s likely what’s going on here.

In a joint pretrial statement filed Tuesday, special counsel Robert Mueller and his prosecutors estimated that its case “will last approximately ten to twelve trial days.”

The defense replied that it hasn’t made a decision yet as to whether it will mount a defense. On the other hand, however, they already know approximately how long they will need to put on a defense.

“Defendant has not determined whether he will present a defense case,” they said. “Any defense case will require between three to four trial days.”

How can you know how long a defense will take if you don’t have one? The answer is clear enough. They do have one, they just haven’t worked out all of the specifics; nor have they made a decision as to whether this is in their client’s best interest.

Manafort’s defense has a bit on its plate to deal with in a relatively short period of time, immediately following a trial that ended with a guilty verdict on eight of 18 counts.

Their motion to change the trial venue is due tomorrow, Aug. 29. Trial number two is set to begin on Sept. 24.

It remains to be seen if Judge Amy Berman Jackson will view things in a different way than Judge T.S. Ellis III did. Ellis presided over Manafort’s Virginia trial and he explained, at length, why venue change would not happen.

Manafort’s attorneys are certainly hoping that Jackson will see things their way, given that they seized on Jackson’s concerns about press coverage fouling up jury selection. Jackson notably expressed skepticism that was in line with what Ellis had said before, so it seems unlikely that she will conclude the trial needs to be moved elsewhere for the sake of fairness.

Even Manafort’s attorneys have no idea where it should be moved, just that it should be.

In other recent Manafort-related news, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that talks of a plea deal between the special counsel and Team Manafort have broken down. 

[Image via Alexandria Detention Center]

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