Judge Tells Jury To ‘Put Aside’ His Criticism of Manafort Trial Prosecutors

TPM Illustration. Photo by Getty Images/The Washington Post
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August 9, 2018 10:03 a.m.

ALEXANDRIA, VA — After being chastised repeatedly by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis in front of the jury during Paul Manafort’s ongoing trial in Virginia, the prosecutors arguing the case appear to have had enough. On Thursday, they filed a court filing taking issue with Ellis’s outburst over a government witness who had watched the full trial before being called to the stand.

Ellis told the jury Thursday morning to “put aside any criticism” of the prosecutors. “I sometimes make mistakes,” Ellis said.

The prosecutors had asked Ellis on July 31 to permit the presence of the expert witness, IRS tax expert Michael Welch, in the courtroom for the proceedings. Thursday’s filing includes an excerpt of the transcript with Ellis explicitly granting the request and even asking the name of the expert.

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On Wednesday when the government called Welch and asked him if he had heard previous witnesses testimony, Ellis blew up at prosecutor Uzo Asonye.

Thursday’s filing asked for the judge to address the issue in front of the jury at the start of the day’s proceedings and correct “the court’s erroneous admonishment” of the prosecutors.

This is not the first time prosecutors pushed back on Ellis for his admonishments. At a bench conference last week prosecutor Greg Andres brought up the judge continuing to suggest that the government is making mistakes. We don’t have “to be chastised in front of the jury for every mistake,” Andres said.

Ellis pushed back. He told the prosecutors to “get it right” and said that they “haven’t been chastised for every mistake.”

Asonye brought up the court filing to Ellis at the beginning of Thursday’s proceedings. “You’re to put that aside,” Ellis told the jury about the issue. “I may well have been wrong.”

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