Rick Rolled! He Gave Him Up! He Let Him Down!
Wonkers, shit got REAL in the Manafort trial yesterday! With only an afternoon session to work with, Judge Ellis got in a full-day's-worth of crazy by flogging the lawyers to GO!GO!GO!
And go they did! Rick Gates copped to all the crimes, Manafort stared daggers, the IRS lady taxsplained how you really, really do have to disclose your overseas accounts, and Judge Ellis shouted that the attorneys need to RESPECT HIS AUTHORITAH!
It was nuts!
First Manafort's attorney Kevin Downing got to cross examine accountant Cindy Laporta, who admitted Friday that she'd knowingly filed false tax returns and loan documents on Manafort's behalf. Downing got Laporta to agree that most of her contact was with Rick Gates, rather than his boss. Then Downing showed her Manafort's 2015 tax return, filed in October 2016. Just two weeks before Manafort was indicted, he finally declared $15 million of "forgotten" income and paid the back taxes and penalty. So didn't Ms. Laporta agree that he was now cleared of all crimes, and they should all just go home since those old, fraudulent returns are totally kosher? Strangely, she did not!
Next up Treasury agent Paula Liss, of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network told the jury that the government is really not kidding when they say you have to disclose your overseas accounts. Like, ALL OF THEM. Manafort's attorney Thomas Zehnle did his best to get Liss to admit that foreign accounts can be so confusing for a guy like Paul Manafort who only worked overseas for twenty years. And prosecutor Uzo Asonye followed up with a NUH UH.
But enough with the previews for stuff you wouldn't even see with MoviePass! Time for the main attraction.
I'm Rick Gates, BITCH!
Alright, Ricky! You shaved your beard, put on a tie, and you're ready for your close up. Whatcha got, kid?
"Did you commit crimes with Mr. Manafort?" the prosecutor asked.
"Yes," Gates responded.
Oh is that all?
Gates said he had authority over some of Manafort's Cyprus accounts, which were set up by a law firm in that country. "I added money to expense reports and created expense reports" that were not accurate, he said, to pad his salary by "several hundred thousand" dollars.
He said he had embezzled from other employers as well and that he volunteered this information in his meetings with the government.
Gates said he also told prosecutors that he had lied in a deposition in a civil case against Manafort involving a private equity fund.
And, he said, as a favor to a friend, Steven Brown, he wrote a letter claiming that Brown had income that did not exist. Brown is facing fraud prosecution in New York federal court.
Okay, simmer down, dude! We don't need to know about that time you slipped a pack of Hubba Bubba into your Underoos at the Kroger.
Prosecutor Greg Andres walked Gates through every nasty, messy, unethical, illegal thing he'd ever done, while Manafort sat there and glared at his former protegé. Gates admitted that he's testifying as part of plea deal that could keep him out of jail entirely, since Mueller's team has agreed not to object to his request for probation. Better all the gory details should come out now, rather than under cross examination by Downing.
After Gates confessed all his sins, he began laying out the details of Manafort's work in Ukraine and the circuitous route his money took to bypass Uncle Sam on the way home. This guy has many, many unpleasant hours of testimony in front of him -- the attorneys have agreed that marital infidelity may be introduced as evidence of bad character. But yesterday he got a nice break when Judge Ellis lost his shit at the prosecutors for trying to introduce Gates's passport to document he traveled to Ukraine. Ellis is wary of portraying Manafort as guilty by association with Russian mobsters -- either to avoid reversible error or just out of his own inherent cussedness. He's also racing through the trial like man renting his robes by the hour.
Let's get to the heart of the matter," he scowled.
"Judge, we've been at the heart …" prosecutor Greg Andres interrupted.
"Just listen to me!" Ellis bellowed from the bench.
After further tense back and forth, Ellis dismissed the jury for the day. Then he went apeshit on the prosecutors.
Andres pushed back angrily, prompting a heated exchange that went on for more than 10 minutes.
Ellis repeatedly criticized Andres for not making eye contact, saying "look at me," and saying he "looked down as if to say, 'that's BS.' "
Andres responded with frustration saying, "You continue to interpret our reactions in some way," when the lawyers don't do the same to the judge.
"You never rolled your eyes," Ellis said, a reference to when he criticized the attorneys for doing so last week, "but you're not the only one sitting at that table."
FUN TIMES! Can't wait for this afternoon (or possibly tomorrow morning) when Downing gets to kick the crap out of Gates on cross examination. Will Gates admit he's the real devious mastermind behind his boss's scamming and scheming? Will he convince the jurors that Paul Manafort is an innocent waif, whose only crime was being too trusting? Will Judge Ellis catch the prosecutors rolling their eyes and leap over the bench to beat them into submission with his gavel?
DUNNO! But we'll keep you posted!
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.