Court Battles

Manafort asks for D.C. trial to be moved to Roanoke, Va.

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Attorneys for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort are urging a federal district court judge to move his second criminal trial from Washington, D.C., to Roanoke, Va., citing a biased jury pool.

Manafort was convicted of eight felony counts of tax and bank fraud last week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, marking the first time someone has been convicted of charges stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. 

{mosads}Manafort’s attorneys said that while the special counsel’s investigation and Manafort’s trial have received national media attention, it has been the most intense in and around Washington. 

Though the Virginia trial “barely touched on issues relating to the presidential campaign,” Manafort’s defense team said “the news media barely goes a day without drawing a connection between the two.”

“The conclusion of that trial less than four weeks prior to the start of jury selection in this case, presents new and increasingly difficult challenges to Mr. Manafort’s effort to ensure a fair jury and a fair trial in this case,” his attorneys said in a nine-page brief filed Wednesday.

In the D.C. trial set to start in September, Manafort is facing seven separate charges, including conspiracy to launder money and failing to register as a foreign lobbyist.

Under the Constitution’s Sixth Amendment, Manafort’s defense team argues he has a right to a trial by “indifferent” jurors “free from outside influences,” who will “base their decision solely on the evidence,” undisturbed by personal prejudice or public passion.

They noted that D.C. voted overwhelmingly for 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over President Trump, 90.9 percent to 4.1 percent.

“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,” they argued, adding that the split is more balanced in places like Roanoke.

“Nowhere in the country is the bias against Mr. Manafort more apparent than here in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area,” they argued.

By contrast, Trump won Roanoke County in 2016 by almost 30 points. Clinton won in Roanoke city by just under 18 percent of the vote.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is presiding over the D.C. trial, granted a request from Manafort’s attorneys Tuesday to delay the start of the trial until Sept. 24. Proceedings were originally slated to begin Sept. 17.

Updated at 11:22 a.m. 

Tags D.C. Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Jury Manafort trial Paul Manafort Roanoke Robert Mueller Washington

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