U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s order does not bar the attorneys from talking to the media altogether. It orders the parties, the lawyers and potential witnesses not to make statements to the media or in public settings “that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case.”
Jackson wrote that she issued the ruling “in order to safeguard defendants’ rights to a fair trial, and to ensure that the Court has the ability to seat a jury that has not been tainted by pretrial publicity.” The order is pursuant to a court rule that provides guidance for lawyers in widely publicized cases and gives the court authority to issue special orders to govern statements made outside the courthouse in the interest of protecting the right to a fair trial.
Jackson indicated in a hearing last week that she may issue such an order should no party file a motion before Nov. 7 objecting to it, and none did. In the Nov. 2 hearing, the judge criticized Manafort’s lawyer, Kevin Downing, for making public statements to the media outside the courthouse after his client’s initial appearance Oct. 30.
In those statements, Downing called the charges against Manafort “ridiculous” and said the indictment against him also showed there was “no evidence” that Manafort or the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government.
Manafort and his deputy business associate, Rick Gates, were both indicted last month on 12 counts, including conspiracy and violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Both pleaded not guilty. A status conference is set in the case for Dec. 11, and the trial is expected sometime next spring.