Thursday, 18 October, 2018

Judge in Paul Manafort trial apologizes for rebuking prosecution

In testimony Tuesday Rick Gates detailed various schemes he engaged in while working for Paul Manafort Joshua Roberts Reuters In testimony Tuesday Rick Gates detailed various schemes he engaged in while working for Paul Manafort
Gerardo Duncan | 10 August, 2018, 10:47

Rick Gates, the star witness in Paul Manafort's fraud trial, concluded his testimony Wednesday with high drama. Both moves improved the loan terms, James said.

Melinda James, a banker who testified earlier Thursday, said Manafort had described the property's ownership as split between him, his wife and his daughter Jessica, who was then married to Jeff Yohai, now her now-ex-husband.

During his testimony Monday, Gates admitted he had embezzled money from Manafort by creating false expense reports on his own behalf.

Downing spent several hours on Tuesday firing questions at Gates to impugn his credibility and paint him as a liar, asking about everything from his extramarital affair in London and funds he embezzled from Manafort, to questions on whether he may have crossed the line by submitting personal expenses when he worked for Republican candidate Trump's inaugural committee.

Ahead of that barrage, Gates implicated himself in a vast amount of criminal conduct on the stand, an apparent strategic decision by prosecutors as they hoped to take some of the steam out of the defense's questioning.

On some accounts, the beneficial owners were listed as either Manafort, Gates or his Ukrainian translator Konstantin Kilimnik, she said.

Legal experts said the judge's criticism of the prosecution has certainly been noticed by the jury, perhaps denting the chance for prosecutors from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team to sell their case that Mr. Manafort engaged in bank and tax fraud.

Prosecutor Greg Andres immediately objected and Downing did not return to the subject after a hushed consultation among the lawyers with Judge T.S. Ellis.

Prosecutor Uzo Asonye asked if Manafort would have qualified for the loan if he had known DMP's profit for that year was in fact $400,000.

She said in another instance, Manafort maintained that there were no mortgages on a separate NY property when there actually were.

He showed jurors how the Federal Bureau of Investigation had painstakingly traced wire transfers from foreign bank accounts to retailers in the U.S. who sold Manafort expensive goods - including the custom men's clothier Alan Couture, where Manafort bought jackets made of ostrich and python skin that each cost five figures.

That private "sidebar" conversation came after Manafort's attorneys asked Rick Gates about his discussions with Mueller's team - an indication that those conversations between Gates and Mueller's prosecutors could have revealed information relevant to Mueller's probe of Russian election interference.

A man prosecutors say has ties to Russian intelligence was also among the beneficial owners of some of the companies. "In reality, it was basically money moving between accounts".

Gates, who embezzled hundreds of thousands - possibly millions - of dollars from his boss over a decade, went behind his back to cook numbers and hide his income for him, they have argued.

"I see no way that Judge Ellis' responses will not have an impact", said Joshua Dressler, an Ohio State University law professor.

Andres put it to him: "As you sit here today, do you have any doubt that if you lie, the special counsel's office will rip up your plea agreement?" After a back-and-forth discussion about how much income should be reclassified as a loan to aid Manafort, they settled on $900,000, she testified.

Gates responded yes. "I made many mistakes over many years", he said.

"Judge Ellis seems to want the lawyers to try the case the way he would try the case", said Gillers.

After saying Monday that he committed crimes with Manafort, including concealing offshore accounts to avoid reporting them to the US government at tax time and claiming false income to get loans, Manafort defense attorney Kevin Downing asked the witness, "This jury is just supposed to believe you after all the lies that you've told and the fraud you've committed?"

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