On day five of Paul Manafort’s trial in Virginia, casual observers and journalists alike were eager to see Manafort deputy Rick Gates take the stand. This became clear when Kevin Downing, a lawyer representing Manafort, let it slip that Gates would testify soon, sending reporters scrambling out of the courtroom to relay the news.
Judge T.S. Ellis then told the courtroom that, while the last time Gates was mentioned and reporters ran out of the room it was “disruptive” and “mildly amusing,” the second such stampede was “not amusing” and even more disruptive.
Before Gates’ testimony was announced, court staff were relatively tolerant of some whispering among the public and press, as well as reporters’ need to leave and re-enter the courtroom to file updates.
However, once Gates’ impending arrival was broadcast, those in the courtroom struggled to contain their excitement and court staff policed the whispers more closely. The court security officer told several people to keep quiet or “take it outside” while the lawyers for both sides met with the judge at the bench before a special agent for The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network testified briefly ahead of Gates.
Before Gates took the stand, Ellis called a short recess. While members of the public last week begrudgingly tolerated reporters’ attempts to save their seats in the room while they filed, the atmosphere in the room changed once everyone knew the star witness would soon testify. Members of the public lobbied harder for seats left vacant by reporters who ran out to post updates, repeating Ellis’ constant reminder that there are no assigned seats in his courtroom. Right up until the recess ended, people milled about the room, hoping to snag a seat for the proceedings began again. People squeezed as many onlookers as they could into the courtroom’s wooden benches, and everyone else had to watch the proceedings from an overflow room with a video stream of the trial.
Wish us luck tomorrow as we cover the second day of Gates’ testimony.