Manafort Is Transferred From Jail Where He Was Treated Like a ‘V.I.P.’

Manafort Is Transferred From Jail Where He Was Treated Like a ‘V.I.P.’

WASHINGTON — Hoping to delay his trial in Virginia on charges of bank fraud and money laundering, Paul Manafort instead managed this week to get himself transferred from a jail where prosecutors said he described his treatment as “V.I.P.” to one where his lawyers claim he is worried about his safety.

Mr. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, has been incarcerated since June 15 in a regional jail in rural Virginia about two hours south of Washington. Prosecutors said Wednesday in a court filing that Mr. Manafort had “unique privileges” there, including a larger-than-average cell, “his own bathroom and shower facility, his own personal telephone and his own work space to prepare for trial.” He also was not required to wear a prison uniform and was allowed to use his laptop in his cell, they said.

But Mr. Manafort’s lawyers, in a motion that sought to delay his July 25 trial, argued in part that they had to travel 100 miles to meet with their client. Phone calls with him were limited to 10 minutes, and electronic communications were restricted, they said.

Judge T. S. Ellis III of the United States District Court in Alexandria, Va., who has been assigned the case, fashioned a remedy. On Tuesday, he ordered that Mr. Manafort be transferred to a jail in Alexandria, about 20 minutes from Washington, “to ensure that defendant has access to his counsel and can adequately prepare his defense.”

Mr. Manafort’s lawyers then objected, arguing that “after further reflection, issues of distance and inconvenience must yield to concerns about his safety and, more importantly, the challenges he will face in adjusting to a new place of confinement” only two weeks before trial.

But Judge Ellis had apparently made up his mind. “Having just complained” about the jail in Warsaw, Va., he wrote, Mr. Manafort’s lawyers had not identified any specific threat to his safety at the Alexandria jail. Jailers there are “very familiar with housing high-profile defendants, including foreign and domestic terrorists, spies and traitors,” he wrote.

“Defendant’s access to counsel and his ability to prepare for trial trumps his personal comfort,” Judge Ellis said. Moreover, he wrote, in the Alexandria jail, Mr. Manafort “will actually avoid the discomfort of long commutes during trial days.”

Mr. Manafort has faced an uphill legal battle. Besides the charges of financial fraud in Virginia, he faces charges in Washington, including violating federal lobbying laws. Last month, a federal judge in Washington revoked Mr. Manafort’s bail and sent him to jail to await trial, citing new charges that he had tried to influence the testimony of two government witnesses.

Prosecutors working for the special counsel in the Russia inquiry, Robert S. Mueller III, suggested to Judge Ellis this week that Mr. Manafort was trying to delay the Virginia case so that he would face the charges in Washington first.

“Think about how it’ll play elsewhere,” Mr. Manafort said in a recorded phone call from jail cited by prosecutors. “There is a strategy to it.”

While the Virginia case appears to be a fairly straightforward bank fraud and money-laundering prosecution, the Washington case may be more politically perilous to the White House because it could touch on the Trump campaign’s possible connections to pro-Russian forces. Mr. Manafort’s trial on those charges, which include obstruction of justice and violations of federal lobbying laws, is now scheduled for September.

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