Paul Manafort suffered yet another loss in D.C. federal court. The former Trump campaign manager was trying hard to keep evidence against him out his pending money laundering case, claiming the FBI inappropriately got a warrant for a raid they conducted at a storage facility. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson sided with the feds, saying they did everything by the book, and prosecutors will be able to use what they found.
Manafort claimed that federal investigators didn’t have proper consent to view the contents of a storage unit where they found various containers. The feds subsequently got a search warrant for the contents of the containers, so Manafort claimed that because the prior search was unlawful, the warrant that resulted from it (and the search of the containers that followed) was also unlawful. This is based on the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree doctrine, which says that any evidence that is collected as a result of an illegal search or seizure is tainted and cannot be used at trial.
Judge Berman Jackson pointed out that Manafort’s argument is flat out wrong for multiple reasons. First, she said, investigators did have consent to look at the storage unit. As it turns out, the person listed as the “Occupant” on the unit’s lease was a former employee of one of Davis Manafort Partners, who now works for another Manafort company. That same person told the FBI that he had moved office files into the unit at Manafort’s direction, described the contents of the unit, and gave an FBI agent a copy of the key and written consent to search the unit, after the agent verified that he was the legal occupant. Manafort himself was simply listed as having “authorized access.”
That means that Manafort’s consent wasn’t necessary to search the unit, because the legal occupant did consent.
The judge’s second point was that even if Manafort was right about the consent issue, he’s still wrong about the warrant. That’s because before the feds even looked in the storage unit, they were aware that there were files in there that they wanted, based on the employee’s descriptions.
“An examination of the warrant application reveals that the affidavit contained sufficient grounds to believe that there may be evidence of a crime in the storage unit, even without the information the agent gathered after stepping inside the unit,” the judge wrote.
Finally, the judge shot down Manafort’s argument that the warrant itself was overbroad, and said that even if this was the case, the FBI relied on it in good faith, so their findings would be admissible anyway.
Due to the court’s decision, federal prosecutors will be able to use evidence collected from the storage unit at Manafort’s trial, which is currently set for September. He was recently ordered to remain in jail until then. Manafort also faces fraud charges in a related case in Virginia, with a trial scheduled for July.
Manafort Order on Scribd
[Image via Alex Wong/Getty Images]