The judge in ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s fraud trial revealed Friday he has received threats over the case and now travels with U.S. Marshals, as he turned back a media request to release juror information.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, in rejecting the motion, argued that he’s confident the jurors would be threatened as well if their information were to be made public.
“I can tell you there have been [threats]. … I don’t feel right if I release their names,” he said, adding that because of threats against him, “The Marshals go where I go.”
The startling revelation came as the jury deliberated for its second day.
Ellis, a famously prickly judge known for his colorful comments, has attracted considerable attention during the Manafort trial for his frequent sparring with the attorneys — particularly those on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team.
Earlier Friday morning, Ellis acknowledged facing pushback about how he’s handled this case. He told attorneys “I’m no stranger to criticism,” but said “this case has brought it to a new level.”
The juror motion itself was filed by multiple news organizations – the Washington Post, New York Times, AP, CNN, NBC, Politico and BuzzFeed. They sought to unseal records in the case, including information about the jurors.
Rejecting the request about the jury, Ellis said “to do so would create a risk of harm to them.”
The judge also denied a motion to unseal all the bench conferences and sidebars, which have been sealed. Ellis said all that will be released to the public at the end of the trial.
After a trial spanning nearly three weeks, Manafort, 69, is awaiting a verdict on 18 tax evasion and bank fraud charges.
He has been accused of hiding income earned from his Ukrainian political work from the IRS. He’s also accused of fraudulently obtaining millions in bank loans.
“The Marshals go where I go.”
Manafort has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Since the jury began deliberating Thursday, the defense has been expressing increasing confidence about its chances. Kevin Downing, Manafort’s attorneny, told reporters he sees the continued deliberations as “a great sign for the defense.”
He echoed those remarks after the jury sent Ellis a note Friday asking to end deliberations at 5 p.m. ET because one juror has an event.
On Thursday, Ellis read aloud another note detailing four questions from the jury, which covered foreign financial accounts, shelf companies, the definition of reasonable doubt and other evidence in the case.
In closing arguments this week, prosecutor Greg Andres told the jury, “The government asks you to return the only verdict that is consistent with the evidence, which is guilty on all charges.”
It takes a unanmious guilty verdict from all 12 jurors to convict on each count.
Fox News’ Peter Doocy contributed to this report.