Judge correct in ensuring fairness
Give U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III credit for insisting that Paul Manafort get the fairest trial possible.
Manafort, at one time during 2016 a key adviser to Donald Trump in his bid for president, went on trial last week on charges unrelated to that campaign. Manafort is accused of a multi-million-dollar conspiracy to evade tax and banking laws.
A major part of the allegations against Manafort involves millions of dollars he was paid by wealthy Ukrainians. On Wednesday, Ellis ordered prosecutors not to use the word “oligarchs” to describe the Ukrainians. Technically, the word — meaning one of a group of elitists who rule a government — may be accurate.
But as Ellis pointed out, use of the term may imply Manafort associates with “despicable people, and therefore, he’s despicable.”
Even before the trial began, Ellis made his position crystal clear. For example, prosecutors were not to use pictures of Manafort at parties with scantily clad women, the judge ordered. That, too, could reflect on the defendant’s character.
Using sly tricks such as those against which he has cautioned is “not the American way,” Ellis explained at one point.
Indeed it is not. Jurors should judge Manafort based on whether the facts prove he is guilty of the charges against him — not because they dislike the man.
Manafort’s case has drawn enormous attention because of his one-time link with Trump. Some have speculated part of the idea behind charging Manafort was to pressure him to provide testimony against the president — in a case which, despite more than a year of investigation, has yet to materialize.
Yet Ellis seems determined to ensure Manafort gets a fair trial, even if it means banning use of certain words. Good for the judge. That is the American way.