This raises the question of whether this is complete incompetence or a tactic by the Mueller team to bide more time by getting a mistrial declared.
Paul Manafort‘s third day on trial over charges of bank fraud and tax evasion was cut a bit short on Thursday after government attorneys made the same mistake twice in a row.
The last witness called to the stand was J. Philip Ayliff, a certified public accountant (CPA) at Paul Manafort’s long-serving tax-preparation agency, Kositzka, Wicks and Co. (KWC), of Richmond, Virginia. As time inched along during the last witness’s testimony, nothing of particular interest seemed to be occurring at all.
After the jury left, Ellis took a few minutes to tell the press and public all about the bench conference. As it turns out, not only was Ayliff a non-noticed witness being asked to give the equivalent of expert testimony, but the prosecution and defense had already agreed on what the term “financial interest” meant. Moreover, this agreement was provided on a proposed–and approved–jury instruction.
That is, not only was Ayliff not an expert and not a noticed expert as necessitated by the Federal Rules of Evidence–but his testimony had the potential to derail an already-agreed-upon definition of the term(s) in question. This, Ellis said, could have “confused or clouded” things for the jury.