Manafort judge won't face disciplinary action for comments during trial

The judge who oversaw the trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John Manafort21 questions for Robert Mueller Why did Mueller allow his investigation to continue for two years? Manafort transferred to minimum security federal prison MORE will not be disciplined for his treatment of prosecutors, according to a new court decision.

Judge T.S. Ellis III, who presided over Manafort’s Alexandria, Va., trial, frequently openly criticized the government with the jury present. Ethics complaints against Ellis claimed he violated ethics rules by accusing prosecutors of misconduct, expressed hostility toward the government and lost his temper during court proceedings.

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In the new order, first reported by Buzzfeed News, Chief Judge Roger Gregory of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled that while Ellis was “strident” with prosecutors, his comments did not constitute misconduct.

"One might say that the judge may have been injudicious in his tone or choice of words, but one cannot say that his comments were so discourteous, uncivil, or 'bullying' as to 'transcend ... the expected rough-and-tumble of litigation,'" Gregory wrote.

Even though Ellis made discourteous remarks during the trial, Gregory ruled, his comments “did not cross the line into partisan political commentary.”

Ellis, a Reagan appointee, sentenced Manafort to 47 months in prison in March, significantly less than the 19 1/2 to 24 years indicated by sentencing recommendations. Ellis was widely criticized for the length of the sentence, but Ellis argued that Manafort had no prior convictions. 

Manafort's crimes were uncovered as part of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's Russia probe last year.