Manafort's bankers, bookkeepers could testify at his trial
Five potential witnesses against Paul Manafort, including accountants and bankers, were identified Monday as a U.S. judge gave the former Trump campaign chairman's lawyers more time to review tens of thousands of documents handed over to them in recent weeks.
Among those granted immunity for their testimony are people from Kositzka, Wicks and Co., an accounting firm used by Manafort, and others who appear to have worked for the Federal Savings Bank in Chicago, which provided him with millions of dollars in mortgage loans.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III pushed back Manafort's bank- and tax-fraud trial after defense lawyers complained that they didn’t have enough time to review 120,000 pages of documents they received this month from prosecutors working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Ellis said he would have potential jurors fill out written questionnaires on Tuesday in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. Then he will bring them back on July 31 to question them before the lawyers agree on a panel of 12 and four alternates. Ellis warned that he wouldn't allow the trial to touch on areas that have "little to do with the guilt or innocence" of Manafort, but are instead political theatrics.
"I'm not in the theater business," Ellis said.
The five people granted immunity were: James Brennan, Dennis Raico, Cindy Laporta, Donna Duggan and Conor O'Brien.
Laporta works for the accounting firm of Kositzka, Wicks and Co. in Virginia and O'Brien was previously employed there. KWC said in a statement that it prepared individual and business income tax returns for Manafort.
"We have and will continue to cooperate fully with the prosecution, including current and former employees of the firm who may be called as witnesses of fact to testify to certain facts the prosecution may feel are pertinent," KWC said.
Two other names on the list match those who have worked at the Federal Savings Bank, which provided $16 million in mortgage loans to Manafort.
Federal Savings Bank is listed as a recent employer in LinkedIn profiles for a Jim Brennan and a Dennis Raico. According to an exhibit list submitted by the special counsel’s office last week, prosecutors intend to show the jury emails regarding a Manafort loan between a J. Brennan, D. Raico and others whose family names were the same as those of employees at the Federal Savings Bank.
The founder and chief executive of the Federal Savings Bank, Stephen Calk, was part of the Trump campaign's economic advisory panel. House Democrats have asked whether the loans were part of a quid pro quo in which Calk was promised a high-ranking job in the Trump administration.
At the hearing, Ellis heard arguments on a Manafort request to exclude evidence about the Trump campaign. Prosecutor Greg Andres said the government would present evidence about a banker who extended a loan to Manafort while knowing that he had submitted inaccurate data on his loan application. That banker sought a job in the Trump campaign and was denied a job in the Trump administration, Andres said. He didn't mention Calk by name.
"Did this person know that the information was inaccurate?" the judge asked. Andres said he did. The judge said he would bar evidence about the Trump campaign except as it relates to the banker "who went along with the fraud so he could get a job."
The bank and Brennan didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. Raico couldn't be located for comment.
Details in the Manafort exhibit list released last week appear to match those of a Donna Duggan who works at Moody Insurance Worldwide in Germantown, Md. Chris Moody, the owner, declined to comment. Duggan didn't respond to a call for comment.
In seeking a trial delay, defense attorney Kevin Downing said he needed more time to go through the documents. Many relate to Rick Gates, Manafort's right-hand man who pleaded guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors. He's expected to be the star witness for Mueller.
"This is the heart of the case," Downing said. "I would consider these to be very important items for us to look at before the trial."
Manafort, 69, is accused of making tens of millions of dollars while working for former pro-Russia Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his party, then concealing those earnings and the offshore bank accounts that held them from U.S. authorities. He's also charged with misleading lenders about his finances to induce them to make $20 million in loans.
Manafort has pleaded not guilty to those charges and to a separate Washington indictment accusing him of money laundering, working as an unregistered agent for Ukraine and obstruction of justice.
That case is set for trial in September.
In the past month, prosecutors handed over 40,000 pages from a Gates laptop, 30,000 documents from other Gates devices, and 49,000 pages from NKSFB LLC, a Los Angeles-based business-management firm that handled bookkeeping for Manafort, according to Downing.
Mueller's office opposed the trial delay. Prosecutor Uzo Asonye said the late handover of documents wouldn’t affect Manafort's defense because the government had already given Manafort's lawyers all of Gates's emails. He said the new material involved only photographs and images.
But Downing said he wants to conduct his own review to determine what he might use on cross-examination, a point that seemed to resonate with the judge.
"The fact that you're not using something doesn't mean it won't be usable by the defense," he told Asonye.