Image Source: Paul Manafort - Getty Images
So, from $15 K ostrich jackets to prison issue pinstripes, right?
Is there any other way this thing plays out? Look, I’ve never been a court reporter, but I’ve followed enough trials in my day to know a smoking gun when I see it. Rick Gates testified this week that he and Manafort set up FIFTEEN different off-shore accounts and didn’t report them to the government, and they knew it was illegal. And why did Gates do that? Because it was “at Mr. Manafort’s direction.” Yup, smoking gun. Never mind that Gates also testified that Manafort told him to declare some transfers as “loans” and not as “payments”, thereby avoiding millions in taxes.
Here’s the deal. Is Gates a scumbag? Yup. Is his immunity deal dirty? Yup. Will the jury believe him? Of course. Why? Well, in my experience, when a dirty guy is on trial, and he is ratted on by his dirty friends, juries believe those dirty rats. When Whitey Bulger was on trial, John Martarano, Steve Flemmi, Kevin Weeks etc. all took the stand and said Whitey was a bad guy. Were they bad guys who’d been given sweet deals? Sure. Did the jury believe them? Yes, because if they are dirty and you were their boss, you are dirty. This is tough to get around.
Further, Gates made this simple. The defense hope in a financial case is one of two things: a. He didn’t do it b. It’s so complicated to understand the jury doesn’t know what to think. Gates made it as simple as it could be – they knew it was illegal and it was done “at Mr. Manafort’s direction.” Everybody understands that, and they are not going to like it. They may hate Gates too, but they are not going to like Manafort. That spells g-u-i-l-t-y.
As I write this, the trial is far from over. But no matter how long it goes and no matter who or what the defense presents, when the jury deliberates this case they are going to hear those words, “at Mr. Manafort’s direction.” And he is going to be convicted.
More wisdom next week.