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Manafort’s Lawyers Are Trying to Use Judge’s Words to Get Him the Hell Out of DC


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Paul Manafort‘s defense attorneys already tried and failed to get his Virginia trial moved to an area that could yield a more Republican-friendly jury pool. Manafort would eventually be found guilty on eight of 18 counts against him in the Eastern District of Virginia.

Nonetheless, Manafort’s lawyers will attempt venue change in his upcoming Washington, D.C. trial, and they plan on using the judge’s publicly expressed concerns about press coverage to accomplish this goal.

Manafort’s defense reportedly plan on filing a motion to change venue for trial. BuzzFeed court and justice reporter Zoe Tillman said that Manafort’s team specifically intends to reference Judge Amy Berman Jackson‘s concerns about pretrial publicity to bolster their argument.

Indeed, the Judge Jackson has already moved to ban the press from being in the courtroom during jury selection because she is concerned that press attention will complicate things.

They have until tomorrow, Wednesday, Aug. 28, to file their best venue change motion. Trial is set to begin Sept. 24.

Manafort’s team wanted its intentions on record, but they still don’t know where they want the trial moved. Actually, they said there may be “no place.”

“Where do you want to go?” Jackson asked on Tuesday, according to Politico.

Manafort attorney Richard Westling answered, “I don’t know that I have the answer to that yet, judge. It may be that there is no place.”

What happened next was not a good sign, and indicates that this is more than an uphill battle for the defense.

Jackson reacted with skepticism to the idea that the trial will need to be moved because a fair and impartial jury would be hard to come by and that press coverage will be problematic given Washington, D.C., and all that entails.

“I believe that the overwhelming majority of the publicity is national,” she commented.

Why does this matter? Jackson’s reasoning is almost the exact same as Judge T.S. Ellis III‘s reasoning on venue change and press coverage.

“[Coverage] has been national in nature and is not unique to this geographic area,” he said. “[The] proximity of defendant’s pretrial publicity to the start of his trial will be the same in Alexandria as it would be in Roanoke or Kansas City or Dallas.”

As we know, Ellis concluded that no venue change was warranted. He, too, said that jury selection would not be an obstacle.

“[T]he mere fact that a case has drawn substantial media attention does not, by itself, warrant a change in venue,” he wrote mid-July. “The Eastern District of Virginia jury pool is selected from cities and counties throughout Northern Virginia, a large geographic area that has a population of approximately 3,000,000 people. Although this population is not as large as the population of Houston, the size of the Alexandria jury pool certainly increases the possibility that impartial jurors can be selected.”

[Image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images]

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