Judge admits he was 'probably wrong' to scold prosecutors

The judge in the Manafort trial said today he was "probably wrong" to scold the prosecution about a witness. CNN's Kara Scannell reports.

Posted: Aug 10, 2018 10:15 AM
Updated: Aug 10, 2018 10:45 AM

Prosecutors have for the second time during Paul Manafort's criminal trial asked Judge T.S. Ellis to correct a statement he made to the jury, according to a filing Friday morning.

This time, they're asking Ellis to tell the jury to disregard a comment Thursday during a witness' testimony about alleged bank fraud conspiracy that the attorneys "might want to spend time on a loan that was granted."

The request comes as special counsel Robert Mueller's team says it's ready to rest its case on Friday against Manafort, Donald Trump's former campaign chairman. They expect to call a pair of banking witnesses who were granted immunity to testify and an employee for the New York Yankees.

The judge's comment "misrepresents the law regarding bank fraud conspiracy, improperly conveys the court's opinion of the facts, and is likely to confuse and mislead the jury," prosecutors wrote.

The prosecutors want Ellis to explain that "that the jury is not to consider the court's comment and that loans that Manafort fraudulently applied for but did not receive are relevant to the charges in the indictment."

Ellis made the comment near the end of the day Thursday, as witness Taryn Rodriguez of Citizens Bank testified about a $5.5 million loan Manafort applied for using false statements to the bank but did not receive.

A day before, prosecutors asked Ellis to correct the record for the jury about his agreement to let an expert witness from the IRS sit in the courtroom before he testified. Ellis told the jury he was "probably wrong." Transcripts from earlier in the trial show he clearly discussed with prosecutors the IRS witness observing the trial.

Friday's witnesses

Several of the witnesses expected Friday worked at Federal Savings Bank, the Chicago bank that gave Manafort a loan and whose CEO, Stephen Calk, Manafort recommended for a senior Trump administration post after the election.

Two of the witnesses, Dennis Raico and James Brennan, were granted immunity for their testimony. A third, Andrew Chojnowski, appears to work in a senior position related to lending at Federal Savings Bank and was not on the previously published witness list.

Prosecutors allege Calk was involved in having Federal Savings Bank extend a mortgage to Manafort in 2016 based on fraudulent financial details.

Calk was named to Trump's Economic Advisory Council in August 2016, and Manafort recommended him to his former deputy Rick Gates to be Army Secretary in November 2016, although he never received a position in the Trump administration.

Mueller's team also said it intends to call to the witness stand Irfan Kirimca, who works in ticketing for the Yankees. Prosecutors have previously made reference to the Yankees tickets, Gates testified that Manafort made him sign a letter saying that Gates bought the tickets, costing more than $200,000, when he had not.

Manafort's case is the first that Mueller's team has brought to trial, charging Manafort with 18 tax and banking crimes. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Once the prosecution rests on Friday, jurors and court watchers will get their first look at what the Manafort's legal team plans to do — and what witnesses it might call.

They have not said whether Manafort will testify.

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