All the work that Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team have put in during the Paul Manafort trial thus far may be for naught, due to possible misconduct. Not an error by Mueller’s team, mind you, or the controversial Judge T.S. Ellis III who is presiding. Rather, a member of the jury could cost them.
According to former federal prosecutor and NBC News legal analyst Daniel Goldman, the prosecution and defense have been going back and forth over a sealed motion in the case, which Goldman believes to be related to a defense motion for a mistrial due to juror misconduct.
“Seems like there may be some teeth to the defense motion,” Goldman said in a Tuesday morning tweet.
Defense counsel for @PaulManafort just told me that the argument over the sealed motion in the #ManafortTrial will continue this morning. Seems like there may be some teeth to the defense motion, which I suspect is related to a mistrial motion for juror misconduct. @MSNBC
— Daniel S. Goldman (@danielsgoldman) August 14, 2018
It’s unclear what the possible juror misconduct could be, and Goldman has yet to respond to Law&Crime’s request for details. Judge Ellis did give some stern instructions to the jury on Friday about not talking to anyone about the case, though, which prompted speculation about misconduct related to a juror speaking to someone they shouldn’t be speaking to. Despite this, jury consultant Alexandra Rudolph told Reuters that the fact that the trial continued soon after was an indication that whatever happened was not serious.
“The fact that the judge resumed proceedings but gave a strong admonishment to the jury tells me that a juror issue arose but that level of misconduct was not significant enough to warrant a mistrial,” Rudolph said.
Goldman, however, seems to believe that the defense could have a strong argument in their motion.
Should Judge Ellis declare a mistrial, the proceedings would have to start all over from scratch. This means a new jury would have to be selected and the prosecution, which rested its case on Monday, would have to present evidence all over again in a new trial; everything Mueller’s team did over the past two and a half weeks would no longer count. That means they would have to go to the trouble of recalling all of their witnesses, including Manafort’s former associate Rick Gates, who previously testified. That would take up precious limited resources for Mueller, who has reportedly been using Justice Department resources and employees to help with his investigation.
Given that Judge Ellis did not halt the trial at the time of the possible misconduct, however, it appears unlikely that he would declare a mistrial if that’s the only basis for the defense’s motion. Given Goldman’s tweet, however, there could be more to it than just that.
[Image via Alex Wong/Getty Images]