Federal Judge T.S. Ellis denied a mainstream media coalition request to release the names and home addresses of the jurors in the Paul Manafort trial in the Eastern District of Virginia.
The request by the media was made, to much fanfare and publicity, on the first day of jury deliberations.
The jury is not sequestered, and while instructed not to read media about the case, it would be hard for them not to hear of the attempt. They certainly already understand that they are targets, as the Judge specifically commented in court in denying the media request that the jurors are scared.
Politico, one of the media entities seeking juror names and home addresses, reported:
Paul Manafort’s trial will stretch into a fourth week, as jurors headed home Friday without reaching a verdict for the second straight day and the judge overseeing the case alluded to “threats” the jury may be receiving.“I had no idea this case would incite this emotion,” U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III said in an open court hearing, responding to a motion from seven news organizations, including POLITICO, seeking access to sealed materials related to the trial that would have publicly identified the jurors.Ellis denied the motion, telling the courtroom that jurors were “scared” and “afraid.” As a result, Ellis said, he didn’t “feel right” releasing the names of the 12-person jury.
Why would the jurors be scared if there names and home addresses are released, particularly if they return a Not Guilty verdict? Perhaps they have seen the videos of Trump administration officials harassed in restaurants, businesses protested and boycotted for expressing pro-Trump sentiment, and street attacks by Antifa. While a Not Guilty verdict for Manafort would not in fact be a “pro-Trump” gesture, there is little doubt it would be perceived that way by the anti-Trump resistance.
The Judge himself said he has been the subject of threats, requiring U.S. Marshal protection. We don’t know from whom the threats came, but we do know that the hostility of #TheResistance to the Judge is palpable. His comments about the case during the trial have led to accusations of bias.
It’s not just the Judge’s conduct during the trial. These comments in open court by Judge Ellis earlier in the case upset many:
“You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud,” Judge T.S. Ellis III said during a morning hearing. “You really care about getting information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment.”
* * *
Even though the investigation was really done by the Justice Department, handed to you, and then you’re now using it, as I indicated before, as a means of persuading Mr. Manafort to provide information.It’s vernacular by the way. I’ve been here a long time. The vernacular is to sing. That’s what prosecutors use, but what you’ve got to be careful of is they may not just sing. They may also compose. I can see a few veteran defense counsel here, and they have spent a good deal of time in this courtroom trying to persuade a jury that there wasn’t singing, there was composing going on.
Dean tweeted not only his hostility to Judge Ellis, but an implicit justification for the threats against the Judge, calling the Judge “UNAMERICAN”:
Little wonder Judge Ellis is being protected. His anti-prosecution bias has been appalling. If Manafort walks it will be b/c of Ellis, and he is jeopardizing the entire special counsel investigation— not to mention the well being of the USA. UNAMERICAN!
Dean’s tweet, retweeted over 8000 times as of this writing, cannot be viewed in isolation.
There is a palpable anger among #TheResistance that Judge Ellis’s conduct may have sabotaged the prosecution. CNN legal commenter and New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin has called Judge Ellis a “nasty old crank”:
The Kathy Griffin has accused Judge Ellis of being senile:
Rachel Maddow has made a point of mocking Judge Ellis repeatedly:
[Sorry, can’t get MSNBC clip to load properly – click the link above to view]
Michael Bromwich, a former federal prosecutor, questioned “Judge Ellis’s motives” in a widely shared tweet:
I think it unlikely that Manafort will walk away without being convicted of something, but the mere prospect that that might happen has opened another window into the unraveling of #TheResistance mind.
Wait for it: If Manafort walks free, #TheResistance party line will be that the Russians got to the judge and jury.