Manafort asks to move upcoming trial, cites publicity
Washington – Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort asked Wednesday to move his upcoming trial out of the nation’s capital, with his lawyers citing “intensely negative news coverage” and potential juror bias against him.
“While federal courts often address issues of pretrial publicity in high-profile cases, it is difficult to conceive of a matter that has received media attention of the same magnitude as the prosecution of Mr. Manafort,” the lawyers wrote in asking to relocate the trial to Roanoke, Virginia.
The request is similar to one from last month that preceded a separate trial for Manafort in Alexandria, Virginia. Manafort’s lawyers had also asked for that case to be moved to Roanoke, but the judge refused. Manafort was found guilty of eight counts last week, and the jury deadlocked on 10 others.
Jury selection is to start Sept. 17 in a trial related to Manafort’s Ukrainian lobbying and political consulting work.
In a new court filing, Manafort’s lawyers argued that media coverage of the case had been “sensationalized” and overwhelmingly negative and would make it hard for the former Trump aide to get a fair trial in Washington.
Although neither the Virginia case nor the D.C. case focuses on Russian election interference, the defense lawyers say news coverage of Manafort has frequently mentioned his relationship with Konstantin Kilimnik, a man who U.S. authorities say has ties to Russian intelligence.
They suggested President Donald Trump himself had exemplified the problem with an inaccurate tweet – when Manafort was taken into custody before trial for violating the terms of his home confinement – that may have contributed to the misperception that he had been sentenced for committing a crime.
The lawyers also argued that potential jurors in Washington are far more likely to be familiar with the allegations in the case than those in Roanoke, saying the D.C. region ranks first in the country in households with internet access and computers. Roanoke, by contrast, is the 70th-largest media market in the U.S., they said.
“Nowhere in the country is the bias against Mr. Manafort more apparent than here in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area,” they wrote. “The phrase ‘inside-the-beltway’ was coined to capture the area’s preoccupation with all things political.”