Paul Manafort’s trial judge created an unexpected moment of levity in the Virginia courtroom ahead of jury deliberations.
Judge T.S. Ellis III addressed the jury Thursday morning, instructing them on considering the testimony and evidence as proceedings began in the government’s case against the former Trump campaign chairman.
“The moment of deliberation is a precise one,” Ellis said, noting “that moment has not yet arrived,” according to Law & Crime.
There was a short discussion about where jurors would deliberate, with Ellis offering the use of a larger conference room instead of the smaller jury room. The group opted to deliberate in the break room in the end as the judge sent them off to begin their discussions.
Addressing reporters who remained in the courtroom, Ellis noted that he hoped they would make room for other court business though they were welcome to stay. The judge then decided to have a moment of fun at the journalists’ expense.
“Mr. Trump, you’re here for what?” he called out to someone in the courtroom, prompting an audible gasp from reporters who strained to see who the judge addressed.
According to Law & Crime:
Defense attorney Jay Nanavati began the laughter. Judge Ellis laughed, too. Even the otherwise downcast defendant, Manafort himself, joined in on the fun, as Mr. Trump answered the question.
Of course, that “Mr. Trump” was none other than James “Jim” Trump, an Assistant U.S. Attorney who happened to be there for the next case.
Ellis, a Reagan appointee, has been described as a ‘nightmare’ for Special Counsel Robert Mueller and has seemingly viewed the Manafort case as cover for the proverbial ‘with hunt’ against Donald Trump.
In May, an agitated Ellis yelled “c’mon man!” when challenging special counsel’s attempt to drag an unrelated bank fraud case back in 2005 to indict Manafort.
It’s no wonder he needs to inject some levity into the situation.
Manafort has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him including tax evasion and bank fraud charges as well as fraudulently obtaining millions in bank loans. The 12 jurors must deliver a unanimous verdict on each of the 18 counts against the 69-year-old in order to convict him.
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