Manafort requests Virginia trial be moved, citing media coverage

Manafort requests Virginia trial be moved, citing media coverage
© Greg Nash

Former Trump campaign head Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortDem warns Trump: 'Obstruction of justice' to fire Rosenstein Ex-White House official revises statement to Mueller after Flynn guilty plea: report Former White House lawyer sought to pay Manafort, Gates legal fees: report MORE is requesting that his trial be moved from Alexandria, Va., to Roanoke, Va., over concerns that widespread media coverage of the allegations against him may have biased the juror pool.

Manafort’s attorneys made the request in a filing for his trial in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria on Friday, arguing that a change of venue is necessary for his Sixth Amendment right to trial by an impartial jury.

The court document notes that special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia has “dominated the news cycle in the United States” and that “a significant portion of the media coverage has focused on Mr. Manafort.”

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Manafort’s legal team cited his former role as head of the Trump campaign, Mueller’s “high profile” probe and a judge’s recent order sending Manafort to jail for allegedly tampering with a witness as reasons to change the venue of the trial.

The document also noted President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republican threatens to push for Rosenstein impeachment unless he testifies Judge suggests Trump’s tweet about Stormy Daniels was ‘hyperbole’ not defamation Rosenstein faces Trump showdown MORE’s tweet last month claiming Manafort unfairly received a “tough sentence.” The filing said that the tweet “incorrectly suggest[ed] that Mr. Manafort had been sentenced for committing a crime.”

The attorneys said media coverage of Manafort “has been most intense in and around Washington, D.C.,” noting Alexandria’s close proximity to D.C., and argued that the trial "may be the rare case where a juror’s predisposition may directly tie to their vote in the last presidential election."

Roanoke residents, the attorneys noted, have a lower degree of broadband access than those in Alexandria. Attorneys argued that media consumption is less intense in Roanoke.

"It is not a stretch to expect that voters who supported Secretary Clinton would be predisposed against Mr. Manafort or that voters who supported President Trump would be less inclined toward the Special Counsel,” the document reads, highlighting the high percentage of Alexandria residents who voted for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton2016 pollsters erred by not weighing education on state level, says political analyst Could President Trump's talk of a 'red wave' cause his supporters to stay home in midterms? Dem group targets Trump in M voter registration campaign: report MORE over Trump in the 2016 election.

Clinton won Roanoke with 56.5 percent of the vote, while she won 75.6 percent of voters in Alexandria. Trump captured 37.5 percent of Roanoke voters and 17.5 percent in Alexandria.

Manafort also requested that the court use a jury questionnaire and that potential jurors face a preliminary questioning about Manafort, in addition to a “substantial increase” in the number of potential jurors summoned for the trial.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to charges of bank fraud, money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent with the Justice Department.