U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis threw cold water on prosecutors' aim to delay former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort's sentencing until after he has finished cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators.
Ellis, who had gained a reputation for being combative and impatient with federal prosecutors during Manafort's trial in Virginia, said in a Wednesday filing that such a move "would be highly unusual."
In that trial, Manafort was found guilty on Aug. 21 of eight criminal counts including tax fraud, bank fraud and failing to file foreign bank account reports. In a separate case on similar criminal charges in Washington, D.C., Manafort struck a plea agreement with Mueller's prosecutors on the eve of the trial start date in mid-September.
As part of the deal, Manafort agreed to fully cooperate with investigators as part of the special counsel's ongoing probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The judge in that case, Amy Berman Jackson, noted at a hearing following the plea deal that Manafort had agreed to delay his sentencing date until a time set by the government, according to The Washington Post.
A spokesman for the special counsel's office declined to comment.
Manafort's former business partner partner, Rick Gates, pleaded guilty in February to lying to the FBI and conspiracy against the United States, and had testified against Manafort in the Virginia trial under the terms of his deal with prosecutors to fully cooperate. The two men worked for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine years before joining the Trump campaign.
In a court filing Thursday, a lawyer for Gates asked Judge Jackson to loosen his client's release conditions by lifting his GPS monitoring and curfew requirements, as well as expanding Gates' permitted travel area to include the Eastern District of Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Gates' interviews with the special counsel's office "have been numerous and they continue to this day," his lawyer wrote. His sentencing date has not yet been set.
Ellis, however, said his court district "is always made in a timely manner and sentencing occurs within two to no more than four months from entry of a guilty plea or receipt of a jury verdict."
Ellis said it appeared from the text of the plea agreement and other court filings that Manafort's sentencing date, as well as the government's decision on whether to re-try 10 deadlocked criminal counts, "will be deferred until after the defendant's cooperation is complete."
But the judge, whose district court in Alexandria, Va., bears a plaque above the entrance doors declaring "Justice Delayed is Justice Denied," shot challenged the prosecutors' apparent scheduling preferences.
"This would be highly unusual," Ellis wrote.
Ellis ordered a hearing for Friday, Oct. 19, at 1:15 p.m. ET, where a sentencing date will be set and the unresolved criminal counts will be discussed. Manafort will also receive information about his right to obtain an investigative report before his sentencing.