Federal District Judge Amy Berman-Jackson proposed a trial date of May 7, 2018 for Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, who are charged with multiple money laundering, fraud, and conspiracy charges. CNN (@cnn) reported that Manafort’s attorneys said they plan to challenge the legal basis of the charges against their client. They also say there is evidence that a search warrant was “improperly obtained, and they will fight to have any evidence found as a result of that search warrant to be thrown out too.
The attempt by Manafort’s lawyers to refute the search warrant’s legality in their client’s case is only one of many side hearings that will take place between now and the time Manafort and Gates finally go on trial. If they ever do at all. Some suspect that Trump may use his pardon powers before the case even gets that far along. But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume he doesn’t. Just from today’s hearings we’ve learned that Manafort’s attorneys already plan to challenge the legality of a few of the procedures that bought about this indictment. These hearings that are separate to any trial proceedings are set months apart, and each separate hearing will probably contain more than one appearance on said subject. At some point, defense lawyers will bring up other “this and thats”. All which take several months to figure out. All of which will be months in-between hearings on that matter. A May 2018 date is just that…..a date. Don’t expect an actual trial to begin anytime near this date. I would be shocked if it does. The date seems a little competitive to me, with the heavy volume of Federal cases already taking up space in the crowded federal court system. This case is a high-profile one, so that could help to push it to the front of the pack. But even still, a May 2018 trial date is unlikely. Manafort and Gates’ case is a conspiracy. A conspiracy that has already been revealed to have at least one cooperating witness and maybe more defendants. (Likely in a superseding indictment) This is a pretty straight forward case, yet still complicated. (If that makes any sense.) Cases like these take YEARS to go to trial. This may surprise some, but this is a very normal thing in United States court systems….federal and state. It seems, the more defendants involved, the longer the case takes to go to trial. A case taking 18-24 months to get to trial is not as unusual as one may think. Even a 30 month wait for a trial date is not as unusual as people may think in this crowded justice system. But unlike most people caught up in the federal system, Manafort and Gates have managed to be granted a bail. The terms of the bail agreement are still up in the air, but in all likelihood, Manafort and Gates will be free men while they await trial. Not free-free, because they will likely be on house arrest the entire time, but free as in, not in jail awaiting trial. So if you were getting excited about a May 2018 trial date, I hate to disappoint you, but I know from personal experience that this is very unlikely. BUT, crazier things have happened, so who knows?