Manafort says he’s being treated like a 'VIP' in jail: Court filing

Mueller outlines “unique privileges” of Manafort's confinement.

July 11, 2018, 6:41 PM

Paul Manafort may be in jail, but he’s getting treated better than other inmates, according to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, which is arguing against Manafort’s call for his trial date to be pushed back.

A Wednesday court filing from Mueller’s team describes Manafort’s living conditions at the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Virginia, in detail, revealing what it calls the former Trump campaign manager’s “unique privileges” behind bars to make the case that being in the rural facility hasn’t hurt his ability to prepare.

Manafort had argued that being held at the jail, about 100 miles from Washington, D.C., kept him from meeting easily with his legal team.

Since a federal judge revoked his bail last month, Manafort has lived in “a private, self-contained living unit, which is larger than other inmates’ units,” featuring amenities that include “his own bathroom and shower facility, his own personal telephone, and his own workspace to prepare for trial,” Mueller’s team wrote.

The conditions under which he’s being held are considered standard for many of the high-profile inmates housed in the jail’s VIP section because of security concerns. According to Northern Neck Superintendent Ted Hull, in the so-called VIP section, there is “no qualitative or quantitative difference” between cells and that Manafort has access to the same privileges as other VIP inmates.

Still, “Manafort has mentioned that he is being treated like a ‘VIP’,” Mueller’s team wrote. He has access to a laptop and does not have to wear a jail uniform, either, according to prosecutors.

PHOTO: Robert Mueller, special counsel on the Russian investigation, leaves the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., June 21, 2017.
Robert Mueller, special counsel on the Russian investigation, leaves the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., June 21, 2017.
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images, FILE

Wednesday’s special counsel filing also reveals that Mueller’s team has been recording calls from Manafort’s private phone, and are now using Manafort’s own words against him.

In phone calls reviewed by Mueller, Manafort has told unidentified associates that he’s finished going through discovery; meets regularly with his legal team; and has access to all his files, “like I would at home.” Manafort’s remarks appear to undermine his counsel’s argument that detaining their client unfairly impedes their ability to prepare for trial.

Manafort asked the court to move his July 25 trial date in Virginia back to allow for more time to prepare, but Mueller’s team insists that Manafort’s complaint “does not warrant the expansive relief sought.”

“Manafort should not be permitted to obtain a two- or three-month continuance based on circumstances he has never challenged or sought relief from, in spite of repeated invitations to do so,” special counsel prosecutors argued Wednesday.

Manafort’s legal team shot back in their own filing Wednesday, calling prosecutors’ characterization of Manafort’s living conditions as “self-serving and inaccurate.”

Attorneys for Manafort also took issue with prosecutors’ revelation of the content of some of Manafort’s personal phone calls and suggested that Manafort was sugar-coating his conditions of confinement to ease the concern of friends and family.

“The Special Counsel does not pause to consider the reasons a detained defendant might have to make his situation sound better when speaking with concerned friends and family.”

The “VIP” treatment Manafort has had at the Northern Neck jail appear to be coming to an end. Judge T.S. Ellis, the federal judge overseeing Manafort’s case in Alexandria, Va., ordered Tuesday that U.S. Marshals transfer Manafort to a detention facility in Alexandria – much closer to the Washington metro area, where the former Trump campaign chairman faces two trials.

In yet another twist, despite initially arguing that being held at the rural jail hurt his case, Manafort opposed the judge’s order, asking to stay at Northern Neck and citing “safety” concerns as the rationale for staying put. Ellis denied Manafort’s motion Wednesday and ordered Manafort transferred.

Manafort's trial in Virginia is expected to begin later this month. His Washington, D.C., trial is set to kick off in September.

Judge Ellis set a July 17 hearing to discuss Manafort’s request to continue the Virginia trial and change venues to Richmond, Virginia.

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