Deadline nears for Mueller to decide whether to retry Manafort on 10 counts in Virginia case

  • Special counsel Robert Mueller is running out of time to decide whether to retry Paul Manafort on the handful of charges that didn't yield convictions from his bank fraud and tax crime trial.
  • Federal prosecutors on Mueller's team now have until Wednesday to inform Judge T.S. Ellis whether they plan to try again for guilty verdicts on those remaining counts or whether they will dismiss them from Manafort's indictment.
  • But legal experts say Mueller's team is unlikely to bother with a retrial.
Robert Mueller
Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images
Robert Mueller

Special counsel Robert Mueller is running out of time to decide whether to retry Paul Manafort on the handful of charges that didn't yield convictions from his bank fraud and tax crime trial.

If Mueller follows through on a second attempt to obtain guilty pleas on those counts, he could add to the already immense pressure on Manafort by extending his potential prison sentence and inflating his legal bills.

But legal experts say Mueller's team is unlikely to bother.

Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, was found guilty on Aug. 21 of eight counts of tax fraud, bank fraud and failing to file foreign bank account reports. Manafort faced 18 charges in the Alexandria, Virginia, case, which was not directly related to Mueller's investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The judge presiding over the case, T.S. Ellis, declared a mistrial on the other 10 counts when the jury was unable to reach a consensus after four days of deliberation.

Federal prosecutors on Mueller's team now have until Wednesday to inform Ellis whether they plan to try again for guilty verdicts on those remaining counts or whether they will dismiss them from Manafort's indictment.

Attempting to retry those charges would benefit neither Manafort nor Mueller, said former federal prosecutor Elie Honig.

"If they do retry, you're looking at three trials for the same guy," Honig said, suggesting that doing so would be inefficient and a waste of resources.

Manafort, 69, faces a second trial against Mueller's prosecutors in Washington, D.C., federal court in mid-September. He's charged with seven counts, including money laundering, failing to register as a lobbyist and conspiring against the United States.

Both trials involve work Manafort did as a consultant for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.

Retrying the Virginia trial, even in a limited form, could pose other challenges for the prosecutors. Ellis had regularly admonished Mueller's attorneys to speed through their case, which spanned 10 days, 27 witnesses and more than 360 evidence exhibits.

On a few occasions, tempers appeared to flare between the judge and the team of U.S. attorneys; at one point, the prosecutors filed a motion asking the judge to retract one of his criticisms to avoid unfairly prejudicing the jury against them.

If asked to redo 10 counts, Ellis may have even less patience to spare for the prosecutors.

And while Ellis could postpone the retrial until after Manafort's Washington trial has finished, he could also order it to begin beforehand. That would potentially push back the Washington trial, which has already been delayed once, even further.

Patrick Cotter, a former New York federal prosecutor, said there is "absolutely no legal reason" to retry the counts.

"He's facing more than sufficient time under the counts he's been convicted of" without even factoring in the upcoming Washington trial, Cotter said.

But, Cotter added, there's a chance the U.S. attorneys will still tell Ellis they intend to retry the 10 counts come Wednesday.

"It wouldn't shock me," Cotter said. "Any lawyer likes to keep their options open as long as possible."

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