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Manafort Judge Says He's Received Threats, Fears For Jurors' Safety


U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort

The judge presiding over the trial of U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort says he has received threats that have made him fear for the "peace and safety" of the jurors deciding Manafort's fate.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III revealed his concerns on August 17 when explaining why he doesn't intend to make jurors' names public, as U.S. courts usually do at the end of a trial.

"To do so would create a risk of harm to them," the judge said. "It's important to keep their names confidential."

"I've received criticism and threats," he said, without elaborating. "I imagine they would, too."

Ellis said he is currently under the protection of U.S. marshals because of the threats. "I had no idea this case would excite these emotions," he said.

The 12 jurors ended their second day of deliberations on August 17 without reaching a verdict. They will return to deliberations on August 20.

Manafort's financial fraud trial is the first to emerge from U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into ties between Russia and Trump's 2016 election campaign.

The case does not involve any work Manafort did during his five-month stint as Trump's campaign chairman, but it centers on charges that Manafort hid income he earned from political consulting work for a former pro-Russia president of Ukraine from 2010 to 2014 to escape paying U.S. taxes on that income.

On August 17, Trump criticized Mueller's prosecution of Manafort.

"He worked for me for a very short period of time," Trump told reporters at the White House. "But you know what, he happens to be a very good person and I think it's very sad what they've done to Paul Manafort."

Manafort is accused of hiding from U.S. tax authorities an estimated $16 million out of $60 million that he earned advising former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's political party until 2014, when Yanukovych was ousted by street protests and fled into exile in Russia.

After Manafort's income from Ukraine dried up, prosecutors charge, he lied to get loans from banks. In all, he faces 18 felony counts of tax evasion and bank fraud. If convicted on all counts, he could face up to 10 years in prison.

To decide the case, jurors must sort through the complexities of U.S. tax and banking laws. One charge, for example, is that Manafort hid some of the money he earned from Ukraine in foreign accounts in Cyprus, which he used to pay for $6 million in U.S. real estate purchases as well as other luxuries to support his lavish lifestyle -- in an elaborate scheme to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

Manafort's defense says he isn't guilty because he left the detail of his finances to others, including his longtime deputy, Rick Gates, who was the government's star witness.

Manafort worked on the presidential campaigns of three Republican presidents in the 1970s and 1980s -- Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush -- as well as Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole in the 1990s. He was Trump's campaign chairman from May to August 2016.

Manafort was forced to step down from the Trump campaign when questions emerged about his work for Yanukovych.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters
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