Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, has added another former federal prosecutor and tax fraud expert to his legal defense team, while his onetime deputy Rick Gates was rebuffed on Wednesday in a request for extra freedoms after pleading guilty and cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller.
Manafort, who is facing the prospect of fighting Mueller’s prosecutors in two separate trials, has hired Richard Westling, according to a document filed on Wednesday in a U.S. District Court.
Westling’s online biography at the law firm Epstein Becker Green emphasizes his experience in health care compliance issues but also notes that he has nearly 30 years dealing with a range of white-collar defense issues. He worked for more than eight years at the Justice Department, including as an assistant U.S. attorney in New Orleans and as a trial attorney in the tax division’s criminal section.
Manafort is scheduled to go to trial — on charges of money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent — on Sept. 17 in Washington. But it’s also possible a Manafort trial in Alexandria, Virginia, involving bank and tax fraud charges could be set sooner because the court is known for its “rocket docket.”
The judge in the Virginia case, T.S. Ellis III, said in an order made public on Tuesday that Manafort must remain on a “24-hour-a-day lockdown” at his Alexandria condo, except for medical appointments or emergencies, court appearances and meeting with his defense attorneys.
“The defendant is a person of great wealth who has the financial means and international connections to flee and remain at large, as well as every incentive to do so,” wrote Ellis, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan, adding that “given the nature of the charges against the defendant and the apparent weight of the evidence against him, defendant faces the very real possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison.”
Manafort’s legal team already includes two attorneys with tax expertise: former federal prosecutors Kevin Downing and Thomas Zehnle.
In a separate ruling on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson rejected Gates’ request to remove the electronic GPS monitoring device that he’s been forced to wear since October after his indictment alongside Manafort.
Gates pleaded guilty in February to Mueller’s charges and agreed to cooperate with the Russia investigation. Because of that cooperation, Mueller’s attorneys hadconsented to Gates’ request to lose the GPS device.
But Jackson wasn’t convinced, noting in her three-page ruling that Gates’ “change of heart is quite recent” and that he’s also pleaded guilty to lying to Mueller during a special “Queen for a Day” interview in which defendants are typically allowed to speak freely without facing more criminal charges.
Jackson did accept Gates’ request to end court-imposed restrictions on his travel from his home in Richmond, Virginia, for meetings with Mueller or the FBI in Washington.