Well into their fourth day of deliberation, the jury in Paul Manafort’s financial fraud case sent the judge a note asking what they should do if they couldn’t reach consensus on at least one out of 18 counts against him.
The jury reportedly asked the judge: “If we cannot come to a consensus for a single count, how can we fill in the verdict sheet?”
The judge said that, for now, they should just keep working.
"It is your duty to agree upon a verdict if you can do so," Judge T.S. Ellis told them.
The question didn’t specify what the jury may or may not have decided about the other 17 counts. But it did set off furious speculation among outside observers as to what this could mean for the fate of President Trump’s campaign chairman (during the critical months of February through August 2016).
And it’s not just Manafort’s future that hangs in the balance. Throughout the trial in Alexandria, Virginia, the political ramifications have never been far beyond the courtroom. The case has been seen as a major test for special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and brought these financial criminal charges against Manafort.
Trump has publicly expressed sympathy for his former campaign chief, in the midst of the jury’s deliberations.
“He happens to be a very good person,” Trump told reporters on the White House lawn Friday. “And I think it’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort.”
Back in Alexandria, Judge Ellis told the court he would instruct the jury they should continue working toward a full consensus on all counts.
It's unclear how long that might take.
Judge Ellis encouraged each juror to make his or her own decisions, but to also give "deference" to other jurors and "listen to each others' arguments."
"You're the exclusive judges," he said. "Take all the time which you feel is necessary."
Observers have said that juries faced with complex, high-profile, white-collar cases can be expected to take a while to make up their minds.
The prosecution in this case has introduced 388 exhibits and over two-dozen witnesses. They said Manafort controlled a complex web of 31 offshore companies, and hid over $15 million in income from the IRS. Manafort’s legal team didn’t call a single witness to testify in his defense, arguing that the prosecution never proved their case against him.
READ MORE COVERAGE FROM THE TRIAL:
- Rick Gates spills the beans on the super-rich Ukrainians who paid Paul Manafort millions
- Manafort has a new scapegoat in his defense against Mueller
- The wise-cracking judge in Paul Manafort’s case may be starting to chill out
- Manafort's accountants appear just as confused about his finances as you are
- Rick Gates says he did crimes with Paul Manafort and stole his money
- Rick Gates can’t remember if he stole money from Trump’s inaugural committee
Cover image: This courtroom sketch shows spectators waiting the the courtroom as the jury continues to deliberate in the bank fraud and tax evasion trial of Paul Manafort behind the closed door, at back left, in the courtroom of U.S. District court Judge T.S. Ellis III at federal court in Alexandria, Va., Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. (Dana Verkouteren via AP)