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Archive for August, 2018

Jury Reconvenes Today After Asking Judge to Clarify Meaning of ‘Reasonable Doubt’

Ex-Trump campaign leader Paul Manafort.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

A jury will reconvene Friday morning after failing to reach a verdict during its full day of  deliberations in the fraud trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Just before the jury said it wanted to go home at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, the panel asked Judge T.S. Ellis to clarify the meaning of “reasonable doubt,” the threshold for acquittal. The judge clarified that the prosecution must prove their case beyond “doubt based on reason,” not “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The jury also asked three other questions, including the legal requirements to disclose foreign bank accounts and the definition of “shelf” companies.

Ellis provided no insight, except to say the jury should rely on their “collective recollection.”

The jury will reconvene at 9:30 a.m. Friday to determine whether Manafort is guilty of 18 counts of tax and bank fraud, which prosecutors said the Republican consultant committed to indulge in an excessive lifestyle that included more than $6 million on seven homes, $820,000 ons manicure the lawns, a $21,000 black titanium and crystal watch, a $15,000 ostrich jacket and an $18,000 python jacket. 

If convicted, Mueller could spend the rest of his life behind bars.

The jury’s decision in the first trial brought forward by special counsel Robert Mueller carries a lot of weight for special counsel Robert Mueller and President Trump, who has long complained that the investigation is a “witch hunt” designed to force him out of office.

Whatever the case, Manafort faces a second trial in several months on money laundering charges, and prosecutors are expected to have even more evidence in that case.

Suspect on FBI’s Most Wanted List Performs His Take on ‘Kiki Challenge’

Antwan Mims doing his take on the “Kiki Challenge” in front of a WDNU 16 camera.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

A double murder suspect who was captured after being placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list turned toward a television news camera and showed off his version of the viral “Kiki challenge.” 

Antwan Mims, of Michigan, was captured in Georgia last month after prosecutors accused him of fatally shooting two men, execution-style, in front of about 100 people at a house party in Benton Harbor on March 25. 

As federal agents escorted Mims off an airplane and into the hands of local police at Southwest Michigan Regional Airport on Tuesday, he briefly stopped, turned toward a camera operated by NBC affiliate WDNU 16 and performed his version of the dance craze, flashing a love heart with his cuffed hands. 

The dance, popularized by rapper Drake, is sweeping across social media as thousands of people share videos of their versions of the infectious “Kiki Challenge.”

Antwan Mims

But the charges facing Mims are no laughing matter.

If convicted of first-degree premeditated murder, he likely will be sentenced to life in prison.  

Prosecutors allege Mims forced Cortez Lamont Miller and Michael Canthrell Johnson to lay down and then shot one in the face and the other in the head.

“When a wanted felon like Mims is placed on the FBI 10 Most Wanted List, his world becomes smaller as that bright spotlight is shined upon him,” Special Agent Timothy R. Slater said in a statement. “Couple that with determined federal, state, and local investigators, his life on the run ends with him in handcuffs.”

FBI agents tracked him down at a home in Atlanta and arrested him.

Trump Legal Team Preparing for Potential Supreme Court Showdown If President Is Subpoened

Rudy Giuliani, president Trump’s attorney.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s legal team is preparing for what could be a dramatic showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court if Robert Mueller subpoenas the president for a sit-down interview. 

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who has been negotiating terms for an interview between the president and special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors, told the Washington Post that his legal team would “move to quash” a subpoena. 

Mueller’s team has tried for months to reach an agreement with Trump’s lawyers for an interview with the president over allegations obstruction of justice during the Russia probe. Mueller has said he is prepared to issue a subpoena if Trump won’t voluntarily sit down for an interview, which could include questions about obstruction of justice and collusion with Russia during the presidential campaign.

The case would be unprecedented because no high court has determined whether a president can be forced to be interviewed about a criminal investigation.

Ex-DEA Special Agent Pleads Guilty to Selling Guns to Suspected Drug Traffickers

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

A former supervisory special agent for the DEA in Nogales, Ariz., faces up to five years in prison for illegally selling firearms, including to suspected drug traffickers.

Joseph Gill pleaded guilty Tuesday to illegally selling firearms, including two rifles to men “he had reason to believe intended to use or dispose of the firearms unlawfully, Tucson News Now reports.

Gill, who sold the guns without a Federal Firearms License, is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 26.

According to the Justice Department, Gill purchased firearms from licensed dealers and sold them online.

Investigators said Gill sold two Colt rifles in June 2016 to suspected drug dealers, according to an ATF investigation. Authorities said one rifle was smuggled into Mexico and another was seized at a port of authority.

Gill resigned from the DEA on June 30.

Jury Begins Deciding Fate of Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort

Paul Manafort

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Just two years ago, Paul Manafort was lavishly dressed, owned six luxury homes and was leading the improbable presidential campaign for Donald Trump.

Today, the 69-year-old’s life is reduced to a jail cell, prison garb and anxiety about whether he’ll spend the rest of his life behind bars.

His fate is in the hands of a jury today as they determine whether one of the GOP’s most successful, if shady, operatives is guilty of bank and tax fraud in order to sustain an extravagant, excessive lifestyle.

In closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutors argued they presented plenty of evidence that Manafort concealed millions of dollars in foreign banks accounts to dodge tax penalties from money he made working for a Ukrainian political party and that he lied about his income to receive tens of millions of dollars in loans that he otherwise wasn’t eligible for.

His defense team blamed the people who testified against him and admitted they violated the law. That includes his longtime business partner and former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates, who testified against Manafort as part of a plea deal with prosecutors.

The jury’s decision in the first trial brought forward by special counsel Robert Mueller carries a lot of wieght for special counsel Robert Mueller and President Trump, who has long complained that the investigation is a “witch hunt” designed to force him out of office.

Whatever the case, Manafort faces a second trial in several months on money laundering charges.

Check back for updates.

Majority of Americans Want Mueller to End Russia Probe Before Midterm Elections

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Most Democrats and Republican believe special counsel Robert Mueller should wrap up his lengthy Russia investigation before the midterm elections in November, according to a new poll.

The survey released Tuesday found that a majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents all agreed that Mueller should, before the elections, issue a report detailing the allegations against Trump and his campaign. https://www.cnn.com/2018/08/14/politics/cnn-poll-trump-russia-election/index.html

Of those who believe the investigation should end before the elections, 57% were Democrats, 72% were Republicans and 69% were independents.

Overall, 66% of voters support ending the probe before the midterms.

Nearly half – 47% – of those surveyed said they support Mueller’s handling of the investigation.

About 55% of Americans disapprove of how Trump responded to the investigation. Only 34% said they support Trump’s response.

Violent Felon Who Shot Student And 3 Cops Used Gun Purchased After Passing FBI Background Check

Marlin Mack

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Marlin Mack, a 25-year-old convicted felon with an extensive rap sheet, legally purchased a gun after passing an FBI background check and then used the weapon to shoot and kill a university graduate student and wound three Kansas City police officers in July.

Mack, who was killed in a gun fight with police, managed to legally purchase the gun despite being a convicted felon with a violent past that includes using a high-powered pistol to rob a woman at gunpoint and then trying to kill the man who called police.

How Mack was able to purchase a gun remains a mystery.

Neither the FBI nor the ATF has returned media inquiries.

Jury to Deliberate on Fate of Manafort After Closing Arguments Today in 10-Day Trial

Paul Manafort

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s lawyers rested their case in the two-week fraud trial, presenting no evidence and calling no witnesses Tuesday.

Today, both sides will deliver closing arguments that summarize the 10 days of testimony in the first trial stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia.

This jacket was among many pieces of clothing used to show Manafort’s lavish lifestyle.

Then, the fate of the 69-year-old Republican operative will land in the hands of a jury, who will determine whether Manafort is guilty of bank and tax fraud. A conviction could send him to prison for the rest of his life.

During closing arguments, prosecutors will try to convince the jury that Manafort hid millions of dollars he made lobbying for a pro-Russian Ukrainian party in foreign bank accounts to avoid paying taxes. They’ll also point to evidence that he received millions of dollars in loans by hiding his true income after he lost his consulting job.

The prosecution said Manafort was motivated by financing an extravagant lifestyle that included lavish clothes and six homes.

His defense team likely will place blame on people who testified against Manafort and admitted wrongdoing, including his former business partner Rick Gates.

No matter what verdict the jury hands down, Manafort’s troubles are far from over. He faces a second criminal trial in a case that alleges lobbying crimes and money laundering.

Manafort has refused to reach a plea agreement with prosecutors in exchange for more information that could reveal more about Trump and his campaign’s role in working with Russia to undermine the 2016 presidential election.

A lot is at stake for Mueller, who continues to be attacked by Trump as heading a politically connected “witch hunt.” The lack of a conviction during Mueller’s first trial would surely be used by Trump to continue to undermine the special counsel, the FBI and Justice Department.

But a conviction would give the president less ammunition to continue undermining the credibility of the investigation, which began in May 2017 after he fired then-FBI Director James Comey.