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No-Nonsense Judge T.S. Ellis Has Every Excuse to Throw the Book at Manafort Now


Paul Manafort mugshot

The Eastern District of Virginia federal judge who once said, “Judges should be patient. They made a mistake when they confirmed me,” now has an opportunity to consider more severe consequences for Paul Manafort.

T.S. Ellis III, the judge who presided over the former Trump campaign chair’s first trial,  recently put sentencing on hold in that case because of a dispute over a breach of Manafort’s plea agreement.

“Because it appears that resolution of the current dispute in defendant’s prosecution in DC may have some effect on the sentencing decision in this case, it is prudent and appropriate to delay sentencing,” Ellis said.

This was Ellis either a) reserving the right to take Judge Amy Berman Jackson‘s ruling into account for sentencing or b) acknowledging that the special counsel may pursue additional charges against Manafort. This could explain why prosecutors haven’t been seeking charges after getting Judge Jackson to rule that Manafort lied in three of five alleged areas, one of which involved questions about Manafort’s contact with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russia national suspected of having intelligence ties.

Ellis was there when Manafort was convicted of eight felony bank and tax fraud counts back in August 2018. Months ago, Ellis decided to expedite Manafort’s sentencing due to Manafort’s poor health, and set that sentencing for Feb. 8, 2019. Ellis then cancelled that sentencing due to the ongoing situation in the plea breach dispute. Manafort’s health was a subject of discussion after Jackson’s ruling, and CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said that pre-prison Manafort compared to the one he saw recently amounts to a “shocking decline.” Toobin went so far as to say that Manafort is “really, really in danger of losing his life.”

Manafort was found guilty on only eight out of 18 counts of bank and tax fraud felonies he was facing in the first trial. A lone holdout juror was not swayed to convict on those, and so a mistrial was declared on those counts.

It should be noted that Mueller and his prosecutors agreed to drop the opportunity to go after Manafort again on those charges as part of the plea agreement that is now void. Theoretically, Mueller could re-try now Manafort on these counts. That too could be the “effect” of Jackson’s decision that Ellis was hinting at.

Either way, now that a judge has concluded Manafort lied, it’s also possible that Ellis could sentence Manafort according to more severe sentencing guidelines.

[Image via Alexandria Detention Center]

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