The Core of the Manafort Trial

Quite a week. Manafort’s former partner in crime, Rick Gates, was called to testify late Monday and remained in the hot seat through Wednesday morning. Then came the real meat of the case in sometimes tedious testimony from, an FBI forensic accountant, an IRS revenue agent, and several banking officers. And on Friday there was an unexplained delay possibly due to a jury issue. We don’t know the reason yet but the judge did go back to the jury area and spent a considerable amount of time in there.

The government is expected to rest on Monday after calling a couple of final witnesses. My sketches from week two are posted below more or less chronologically.

 

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Manafort Trial, Week One

Former Trump campaign director Paul Manafort’s bank and tax fraud trial got off to a quick start this week in Alexandria’s “rocket docket” federal court. Judge T.S. Ellis, who yesterday quipped that he was a “Caesar in my own Rome” kept things moving along. Jury selection, which many expected to take a couple of days, was completed by early afternoon of the first day followed by opening statements and the first witness.

This first week’s sketches are posted below, more or less in chronological order. The trial’s star witness, Rick Gates, is expected to be called to testify early next week and the government has said it will rest by the end of the week. Keeping my fingers crossed that Gates won’t take the stand till Tuesday as I have jury duty – don’t you know – in Baltimore on Monday.

 

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Manafort’s New Threads

Paul Manafort, accustomed to $10,000. House of Bijan suits, appeared instead for yesterday’s pre-trial hearing wearing an Alexandria jail issued prisoner jumpsuit. Looking disheveled, the collar of his green jumpsuit turned inside out, the usually dapper Manafort did not look comfortable. Perhaps that is why he has declined to be present in court today as prospective jurors are summoned to fill out questionnaires.

Judge Ellis granted the defense’s request to delay the start of the trial so that they could have more time to review evidence, but only for a week. The trial is now scheduled to begin next Tuesday, July 31.

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Life Imitates Art ? The Russian Sparrow

Part “Red Sparrow”, part “The Americans”, the picture painted by the government during yesterday’s detention hearing for alleged Russian agent Maria Butina had elements of a spy thriller. Charged with failing to register as a foreign government agent, Butina, according to the government had ties to Russian intelligence.

A Russian gun rights activist, she came to Washington on a student visa, attended American University, and developed ties to the NRA as well as a personal relationship with a Republican consultant. It was also said that she traded sex “in exchange for a position within a special interest organization.”

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Sentencing Dry-Run

An odd hearing yesterday. Last week Judge Emmet Sullivan scheduled a status hearing in United States v. Flynn, ordering the defendant, former national security advisor Michael Flynn, to attend. It was Flynn’s first appearance in court since pleading guilty last year to lying to the FBI.

Apart from the opportunity to sketch Flynn standing before the judge as he presumably will be at sentencing, the hearing yielded little news. Judge Emmet, who was not the judge who took Flynn’s plea, said he called the hearing in part simply to meet the defendant and lawyers. The judge ordered the parties to update him on August 24 but set no date for sentencing.

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Capital Gazette Shooter In Court

Jarrod Ramos had his first appearance before a judge via CC TV after murdering five people with a shotgun at the offices of the Capital Gazette, a local Annapolis newspaper.

Ramos, who appeared to be handcuffed, looked upward the entire time, occasionally blinking and tilting his head from one side to the other. He said nothing.

Anne Arundel County State Attorney Wes Adams revealed that Ramos had blocked one of the exits before starting his rampage. Judge Thomas J. Pryal ordered Ramos held without bail on the five charges of first degree murder.

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End of SCOTUS Term . . . and the World As We Know It

Reporting on the retirement of Justice Kennedy, Nina Totenberg quoted R.E.M. “. . . it’s the end of the world as we know it”.

Although rumors had been circulating for over a year most Court-watchers figured Kennedy would hold off while Caligula occupied the White House. While disappointed, I can’t really blame him, after more than forty years on the bench, for wanting to step down. I’ll miss sketching him. When Kennedy joined the Supreme Court in 1988 USA Today quoted one of my fellow sketch artists as saying he had a “vanilla” face, in other words unremarkable. But not for me. I’ve grown accustomed to his face, the dome of his skull, the way his ears have no lobes, and the nose, ah the nose. Happy retirement Justice Kennedy.

 

Justice Kennedy announcing opinion in Masterpiece Cakeshop

Sketches from this week’s opinions are posted below.

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Sketches From This Week’s Added Opinion Days

Monday on the Supreme Court plaza was sizzling hot, Friday was not. In fact now, on the other side of the solstice, it’s drizzling and mild.

Into the home stretch now, the Court is adding opinion days to its regular June calendar of Monday sittings, and most of the cases remaining are biggies.

This week’s blockbusters were Carpenter v. United States, in which the Court ruled that a warrant is required for most cell phone data searches, and South Dakota v. Wayfair where the Court ruled that online and mail order businesses now need to collect sales tax on out of state purchases.

There were, of course, other opinions and if you’re wondering why I haven’t posted those here’s the reason: in the courtroom I roughly sketch each justice as they announce an opinion, or dissent, from the bench, but only complete the ones that are notable in some way, usually because it’s one everyone’s been waiting for. To complete and post every sketch of every justice announcing every opinion would be repetitive and boring.

Sometimes though, I’ll complete and post a drawing simply because I like it, or because of an interesting or humorous turn of phrase as when Justice Kagan, announcing the opinion in Lucia v. Security and Exchange Commission, described the petitioner as “an investment advisor who marketed a retirement savings strategy called ‘Buckets of Money.’”

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Gerrymander Side-Step on a Hot Day

Nothing is more welcome on a broiling summer day in DC than the cool marble halls inside the Supreme Court building . Outside, by the plaza, camera crews waited under beach umbrellas for reporters with news of the Court’s latest opinions.

Of the five opinions announced today the most anticipated were two partisan-gerrymander cases. There was optimism at the beginning of the term, when the first gerrymander case was argued in October, that the Justices might at last come up with a solution to the problem of political redistricting. But the Court left it to another day, another term. Both cases were returned to the District courts.

 

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Catching Up: Some SCOTUS Opinions

First things first, DC threw a parade last week to celebrate the home team Stanley Cup winners. Congratulations Washington Capitals!

Below are sketches of opinions announced in three major cases, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, and Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky

There are still nineteen argued cases to be announced before the summer recess begins at the end of June. Usually the most important, and difficult, opinions come down on the very last days.

 

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