- US District Court Judge TS Ellis admitted that he made a major mistake in the trial of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
- Prosecutors filed a motion complaining that Ellis’ comments could hurt special counsel Robert Mueller’s team.
- Ellis said it was a mistake to criticize Mueller’s team in front of the jury for allowing a witness from the IRS to remain in the courtroom while other witnesses testified.
US District Court Judge TS Ellis admitted on Thursday morning that he made a major mistake in the trial of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort that could hurt the special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, according to Politico.
Witnesses usually aren’t allowed to hear other witnesses testify so they don’t work together or affect each other’s stories. But Ellis gave Mueller’s team permission at the start of the trial to let one particular IRS witness stay in the courtroom and watch the proceedings, according to the report.
On Wednesday, Ellis criticized Mueller’s team in front of the jury for allowing the witness to remain in the courtroom while other witnesses testified.
“It’s my clear recollection …. that I wasn’t admitting experts. You need to ask specifically. You’re going to go ahead now, I’m going to permit that, but I want you to remember that,” Ellis said, according to Politico.
After Mueller’s team pushed back on the judge’s claims, Ellis said, “Maybe I made a mistake. But I want you to remember don’t do that again. When I exclude witnesses, I mean everybody. Now, it may be that I didn’t make that clear.”
On Thursday morning, Mueller’s team filed a motion to protest how Ellis criticized them. They asked him to explain to the jury that the witness was permitted to stay by citing the transcript from the opening day of the trial, which showed that Ellis had approved it, according to Politico.
“The Court’s reprimand of government counsel suggested to the jury-incorrectly-that the government had acted improperly and in contravention of Court rules,” the prosecutors wrote in the motion. “This prejudice should be cured.”
Out for morning recess. Updates so far:
– When the jury came in, judge addressed his criticism of the govt yesterday for having an expert witness sit in on the trial. Judge said he hadn't reviewed the transcript yet, but was "probably wrong" and told the jury to "put that aside"
— Zoe Tillman (@ZoeTillman) August 9, 2018
Ellis addressed the jury on the matter before the first witness of the day testified on Thursday.
He said he “may well have been wrong” for his public chastising of the prosecutors and told the jury to ignore what had been said the previous day.
“This robe doesn’t make me anything other than human,” Ellis said. “You’ve got to put that aside.”
Ellis has made a name for himself for his feisty demeanor in the courtroom and has not shied away from showcasing aspects of his personality during the trial. He has talked to the jury about their lunch options multiple times, and often cracks jokes.